Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman are part of a large group of wealthy parents who were just arrested by the FBI for their involvement in a multi-million dollar college bribery scheme.
Fifty people, including Huffman and Loughlin, were charged Tuesday in a scheme involving wealthy parents who allegedly bribed college coaches and other school insiders in order to get their children into some of the nation’s most elite colleges and universities. The FBI has called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the results of an investigation code-named Operation Varsity Blues.
The scandal highlights longtime complaints that children of the wealthy and well-connected have close ties to getting accepted into some of the country’s best colleges. At least nine athletic coaches and 33 wealthy parents, who work in law, finance entertainment and business, were among those charged and arrested by midday Tuesday. The coaches involved in the scheme worked at elite schools including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.
A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against the others who were arrested. Prosecutors accuse parents of paying an admissions consultant from 2011 through February 2019 who resorted to bribing coaches and administrators in an attempt to falsely make their children look like star athletes to boost their chances of getting into college. The consultant also hired people who would take college entrance exams for students and paid off insiders at testing centers to alter students’ scores.
Parents reportedly spent between $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their children’s admission, officials said.
“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected,”
The defendants, including Huffman, were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud and face up to 20 years in prison.
Authorities accuse coaches in certain sports of accepting bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience in the sport. This improved their chances of admission into some of the nation’s top schools. Prosecutors said parents also instructed their children to claim they had a learning disability so that they could take the ACT or SAT by themselves, with extra time. This made it easier to pull off the score tampering, according to prosecutors.
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. Loughlin, who was charged along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared in the ABC sitcom “Full House,” while Huffman starred in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.”
Huffman paid $15,000 that she covered up as a charitable donation to USC so that her daughter could take part in the college entrance-exam cheating scam. Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained to them that he “controlled” a testing center and could have somebody secretly change her daughter’s answers, to which the couple agreed to the plan.
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