Felicity Huffman among dozens charged over admissions fraud at top US schools

Scheme helped wealthy Americans buy their childrens way into elite universities including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford

US federal prosecutors have charged Hollywood actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, along with almost 50 other people, over a $25m scheme to help wealthy Americans buy their childrens way into elite universities including Yale, Georgetown, Stanford and the University of Southern California.

Huffman was due to appear in court in Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon. Her husband, actor William H Macy, showed up at court ahead of his wifes appearance to face a charge of bribery.

Two hundred FBI agents were involved in the investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, which exposed how parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.

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William Rick Singer, 58, was charged by federal prosecutors in Boston with running the racketeering scheme through his Edge College & Career Network, which served a roster of clients including chief executives and Hollywood actors.

Thirty-three parents, including Huffman and Loughlin, were charged, as well as 13 college sports coaches and associates of Singers business. Dozens, including Huffman, were arrested by middayin what authorities called a conspiracy nationwide in scope.

These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege, Andrew Lelling, the US attorney for the district of Massachusetts, said in a press conference on Tuesday morning. Based on the charges unsealed today, all of them knowingly conspired with Singer and others to buy their childrens admission to elite schools through fraud.

Lelling said the parents included CEOs, successful securities and real estate traders, a fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm.

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5m to guarantee their childrens admission, officials said.

Actor William H Macy. Photograph: Mat Hayward/Getty Images

Huffman and Macy are accused of making a $15,000 payment disguised as a charitable donation as part of a scheme to allow their daughter to take part in the college entrance-exam cheating scam. Macy is not named in the filings and has not been indicted.

According to charging documents,Singers operation arranged for examiners to take college admissions exams in place of his clients children, advise them of correct answers, or change their test answers after they had been completed. Lelling said that in cases where the test was being administered for the second time, scores wereraised in a calculatedway so as not to raise suspicion.

What singer was good at doing was calibrating the fake credentials to appear realistic and not so impressive as to invite suspicion or additional scrutiny, said Lelling.

A lawyer for Singer said on Tuesday evening his client intends to cooperate fully with federal prosecutors.

Attorney Donald Heller told reporters that Singer is remorseful and contrite and wants to move on with his life. Heller says Singer is relieved that this part is over.

In the charging documents, prosecutors produced a handwriting sample a student was asked to submit so that a fraudulent test-taker could try to match it.

A student in the admissions scandal submits a handwriting sample for a test taker to mimic. Photograph: US attorney’s office in Boston

In other cases, Singer allegedly conspired with college athletic coaches for applicants to be listed as recruited athletes, even if, as in several cases, they had never even played the sport in question. Pictures of students heads were even Photoshopped on to the bodies of athletes to create fake image profiles.

The coaches worked at such schools as Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles.

In one exchange captured in the complaint, a parent is asked for a photo of his son a little bit in action so he could be photoshopped onto a football player in an attempt to be admitted at USC.

The way the world works these days is unbelievable, the father replied, while agreeing to look for a suitable image.

In another case, a family paid about $1.2m in multiple installments, including approximately $900,000 as a purported charitable donation for a falsified athletic profile in an attempt to get a student accepted to Yale through the soccer team despite the fact that she did not play competitive soccer.

Former Yale womens soccer coach Rudy Meredith was among those caught up in the investigation, which prosecutors said took over a year to complete. Meredith is accused of accepting a $400,000 check from the family of a Yale applicant, and facilitating her admission to the university as part of the womens soccer team, according to filings.

Meredith left his position with the team last year. He pleaded guilty and helped prosecutors build the case against others. John Vandemoer, the former head sailing coach at Stanford, also pleaded guilty on Tuesday to racketeering conspiracy. Stanford said Vandemoer has been fired.

Singer admitted on Tuesday in Boston federal court to charges including racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice, according to court papers.

Actor Lori Loughlin was charged with fraud and conspiracy. Photograph: Danny Moloshok/Reuters

Loughlin, who was charged along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared in the ABC sitcom Full House, while Huffman starred in ABCs Desperate Housewives. Both were charged with fraud and conspiracy.

Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Huffman and Macy at their Los Angeles home and explained to them that he controlled a testing center and could have somebody secretly change her daughters answers in a college entrance exam. The person told investigators that the couple agreed to the plan.

Representatives for Huffman, Loughlin and Macy also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Among the parents charged were Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Connecticut, a co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York; Jane Buckingham, CEO of a boutique marketing company in Los Angeles; Gregory Abbott of New York, founder and chairman of a packaging company; and Manuel Henriquez, CEO of a finance company based in Palo Alto, California.

Lelling said it remains to be seen if we charge any students and that the colleges themselves are not considered co-conspirators. Authorities said in many cases the teenagers were not aware of the fraud.

Original Article : HERE ; This post was curated & posted using : RealSpecific

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