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Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among 40 charged in a nationwide college entrance exam scandal, according to court documents filed Tuesday in Boston and obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
Several NCAA D-1 college coaches, company CEOs and one college administrator have also been implicated in the scandal, named “Operation Varsity Blues.” Two-hundred FBI agents worked the case.
Documents show those indicted allegedly paid millions in bribes to get their children into elite colleges. Those colleges include Yale, Stanford and the University of Southern California.
“It remains to be seen if we charge any students,” Andrew Lelling with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said during a media conference. “The schools are not considered co-conspirators.”
Arrest warrants have been issued. Thirteen of the accused were taken into custody Tuesday morning in the Los Angeles area, including Huffman, according to Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the United States Attorney’s Office, District of California. “Those 13 defendants will be making their initial court appearances this afternoon beginning sometime after 2 p.m.”
Loughlin was taken into custody Wednesday morning, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller told THR.
“She will be booked at the Metropolitan Detention Center and is expected to appear before a federal magistrate at 2 p.m. this afternoon, U.S. District Court in downtown L.A.,” Eimiller said.
Feds are basing the case on interviews with witnesses, bank records, flight records, emails, cell site data and wiretaps. The charges were authorized by a grand jury.
The scheme, in some instances, involved parents paying William “Rick” Singer, of Newport Beach, California, the founder of a college prep business, to have someone take the SAT or ACT for their children, according to authorities. Prosecutors alleged that Singer also paid around $25 million in bribes to coaches and administrators to pretend client’s children were athletic recruits, thereby guaranteeing admission. Singer pleaded guilty in Boston federal court around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice, according to the Associated Press.
Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to USC, through Singer’s operation, in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the college’s crew team — even though they did not participate in crew — thereby guaranteeing their admission in the college, according to documents. The couple faces charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
“The federal government has alleged that USC is a victim in a scheme perpetrated against the university by a long-time athletics department employee, one current coach and three former coaching staff, who were allegedly involved in a college admissions scheme and have been charged by the government on multiple charges,” USC president Wanda M. Austin said, in part, via an email to students obtained by THR. “At this time, we have no reason to believe that Admissions employees or senior administrators were aware of the scheme or took part in any wrongdoing — and we believe the government concurs in that assessment.”
Huffman and her spouse, William H. Macy, are accused of disguising a $15,000 charitable payment in the bribery scheme. The charging papers refer to Macy as “spouse.” He hasn’t been indicted. She also faces the charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
According to charging documents, a “confidential witness” — likely Singer — met with Huffman at her home and explained that he “controlled” a SAT testing center and could arrange for someone to proctor the taking of the test and then correct her daughter’s answers afterward. Huffman is said to have later exchanged emails with this individual in an effort to get 100 percent extra time for her daughter and to facilitate the taking of the SATs away from her school.
Huffman’s daughter is said to have taken the test in December 2017 and received a 1420 on the test, a 400 point improvement from a previous test. Last October, Huffman discussed repeating this for her youngest daughter in a taped conversation that evidently the FBI has obtained. However, Huffman did not go through with the cheating for her youngest daughter, according to court papers.
Also included in the documents on Tuesday, and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, is TPG’s Bill McGlashan, Hollywood investor and co-founder of STX.
In an interview with Parade this year, Macy said his children, “My daughters are extraordinary women. They’re really a joy. They’re both thriving. They’ve got a life ahead of them, but you can exhale a little bit. They’re 16 and 18 years old, and they’re good people. My daughter Sofia, the oldest, is going to LAHSA [Los Angeles High School of the Arts]. She’s thriving there. I know she’s going to make a go of it in the business, which I support. I’ve seen her; she’s good, she’s really good.”
He added about Sofia, “She’s going to go to college. I’m the outlier in this thing. We’re right now in the thick of college application time, which is so stressful. I am voting that once she gets accepted, she maybe takes a year off. God doesn’t let you be 18 twice. I know from casting, if you need a 25-, 26-year-old actress, there are a lot of them out there and they’re really good. But if you need a 15-, 16-year-old actress, it’s tough. Sofia looks young. I think this is an opportunity for her. But it’s just my opinion, and we’ll see what she wants to do, what Felicity thinks and how the chips fall. My daughter Georgia, she’s interested in politics, political science and pursuing that. She’s in a very academic school and killing it.”
Singer has agreed to plead guilty to racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice (after alerting several subjects of the investigation of the government probe), according to court papers, and has been cooperating since September 2018 in a bid for leniency.
March 13, 9 a.m.: Updated to note Lori Loughlin is in custody.
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