From Desperate Housewives to Law and Order, and from Full House to the Big House? The Department of Justice today charged dozens in an alleged college-admissions cheating ring, including celebrities Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. According to multiple media reports, a conspiracy to bribe schools and cheat on entrance requirements involved a number of schools and successful people looking to give their children a leg up:
Prosecutors say the parents charged in massive college admissions scandal are a "catalogue of wealth and privilege" — including real estate investors, a fashion designer, a global law firm's co-chairman and the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin https://t.co/J1crlqiYzh pic.twitter.com/HAAnNwUyBa
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 12, 2019
Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among at least 40 people charged in a large-scale college entrance exam cheating scheme, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday.
The alleged scheme focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to the indictment unsealed in Boston.
Loughlin, best known for her role in the sitcom “Full House,” and Huffman, who starred in the ABC hit show “Desperate Housewives,” were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. They could not be immediately reached.
Those are not misdemeanors, as the two actors will shortly discover. The indictments are structured as a RICO case, and if they are being charged with conspiracy involving the federal mail fraud statute 18 USC 1341, it carries a potential sentence of 20 years in prison. These are not the kind of charges for which “community service” will suffice. The FBI in its “Operation Varsity Blues” apparently found some specific evidence of their involvement in the scheme — and significant investment in it:
They allege that Huffman and her husband “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000…to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter. Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so.”
Federal agents say they have recorded telephone calls with Huffman and a cooperating witness.
The documents say that Loughlin and her husband “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
Officials say they have emails from Loughlin.
Oops. That doesn’t sound like a case of overanxious parents inadvertently crossing a line. ABC News reports that some in the conspiracy — which includes thus-far unnamed CEOs as well — paid bribes of up to $6 million to land an admission to the college of their choice. The Associated Press gives a few more details:
The racketeering conspiracy charges unveiled Tuesday were brought against the coaches at schools including Wake Forest University, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
Authorities say the coaches accepted bribes in exchange for admitting students as athletes, regardless of their ability.
Prosecutors say parents paid an admissions consultant $25 million from 2011 through Feb. 2019 to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes to boost their chances of getting into schools.
Prosecutors allege that fake athletic profiles were also made to make students look like strong high school athletes when they actually weren’t.
That seems rather ironic. Usually the problem with athletic programs involves schools admitting talented athletes whom they pretend are good students, not the other way around.
In a press conference, the DoJ announced that 33 parents had been charged including Huffman and Loughlin, as well as a well-known fashion designer and some CEOs. The IRS has charges filed as well, since the scheme allegedly involved the use of a fraudulent tax-exempt charity to shield the transactions. This was a “rigged system” designed to prevent others from getting a fair shot at admission to the schools of their choice by “corrupt practices, including but not limited to bribery,” faked tests, and false profiles, according to prosecutors.
At this point, a lot of wealthy and powerful people will need very good attorneys. They’d better hope that those lawyers didn’t get into law school through similar schemes.
— ABC News (@ABC) March 12, 2019