Hollywood stars, wealthy parents arrested, charged over college bribery scam1:40
Actresses Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and 46 others have been charged for their part in a university bribery scheme.
Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin have been charged in a massive crackdown on a widespread bribery scam involving some of the most elite colleges in America.
The respected Hollywood stars, along with 46 others, have been caught up in a sweeping national operation between the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service code named “Varsity Blues”.
It has blown the lid off a $25 million ($A35 million) fraud scheme involving fake test scores and preferential treatment allegedly sold by a man named as Rick Singer.
It’s claimed Singer offered two types of scams to wealthy parents: forged entrance scores and fake athletic records for their children.
Court records show Huffman, Loughlin and others including CEOs, investors and even lawyers, allegedly paid substantial sums of money — in some cases as much as $US6 million ($A8.5 million) — to guarantee that their children would be accepted into prestigious universities such as UCLA, Yale and Stanford.
The charges against the actresses and more than 40 others include conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, TMZ reported.
“We've learned Felicity has been arrested and is presently in custody. We're told she will be released on a signature bond … which essentially is a promise to appear in court,” according to gossip site TMZ.
The alleged scheme came to light after authorities discovered Singer’s business scam helping parents get their kids into the university of their choice.
Parents allegedly paid Singer a sum of money which he would funnel to a contact who was receptive to bribes, including a university administrator or athletic coach.
It is reported that Loughlin and her husband allegedly paid $500,000 ($A705,000) to have their two daughters accepted into the rowing team at the University of Southern California — despite the fact that neither girl apparently ended up on the rowing crew.
Huffman and her husband, Shameless actor William H. Macy, reportedly made a charitable contribution of $15,000 ($A21,000) so their first daughter could receive false test results in a university entrance exam.
She declined the same service for her second daughter.
According to investigators, the universities themselves were not aware of the fraudulent scheme. Only individuals pocketed the bribes.
Currently, 38 individuals are in custody. Seven are expected to surrender and another four are expected to plead guilty, according to investigators.
Sadly, it appears that the children were unaware that their parents had pulled strings to get them in to the top universities. At this stage, no students have been charged.
William H. Macy will not be charged despite meeting with alleged “mastermind” William Singer and initially saying he thought they would use Singer’s services to illegally boost their younger daughter’s test scores. But ultimately, Huffman and Macy decided not to pursue the scheme for their second daughter.
Huffman was charged with conspiracy and honest services mail fraud in connection with a 2017 SAT test proctored by alleged co-conspirator Riddell, in which Huffman and Macy’s older daughter, Sofia, scored 1420 points. That score was 400 points higher than what she scored a year earlier.
The operation to expose what authorities describe as a “rigged system” and “money laundering scheme” has been proceeding since last May, centred in Boston’s FBI headquarters.
In a press conference in Boston today, investigators had harsh words for Huffman, Loughlin and the other accused, saying they “flaunted their wealth and spared no expense” to literally get their children “the best education money could buy”.
Their actions were “insidious, selfish, and shameful”, said FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta.
“Parents, coaches, and facilitators all lied, cheated, and covered up their crimes,” said Mr Bonavolonta.
Court papers stated a co-operating witness met with Huffman and Macy at their Los Angeles home and explained the scam to them.
The cooperator told investigators that Huffman and her spouse “agreed to the plan.”
Huffman and Loughlin have not responded publicly to the allegations.
Paul Callan, a CNN legal analyst, said that the crimes Huffman and Loughlin are charged with are “very serious” and could result in five years in jail, if they’re found guilty.