At least 40 people — including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman — have been charged in a massive college-entrance scheme, according to NBC. Court documents unsealed Tuesday revealed a pricey scam to get students admitted to elite universities — namely Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale — as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic ability. The suspects paid bribes of a few thousand dollars up to $6 million, without the admitted students knowing.
Prosecutors in Boston federal court allege that Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy (he was not charged on Tuesday), “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,” according to ABC 7 News in San Francisco. All of the payments were purportedly for charity. 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.” Neither of Loughlin’s two daughters participated in crew.
The scam was allegedly run by a man in California who ran a college-counseling agency nicknamed “the Key.” The service would accept payments from parents and direct their money to an SAT or ACT administrator, or a college athletic coach. Coaches would fabricate the student’s athletic history, exam administrators would correct the student’s exam, or a proctor take the college admissions test instead.
According to NBC, 44 people have been charged.
Update, 12:30 p.m.: During a press conference about the college-admissions scheme — code-named “Operation Varsity Blues” by the FBI — investigators said that they have not charged any students, but that there is evidence that some students knew their parents were bribing their way into selective colleges, while other students had no idea. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling told reporters that it appears none of the schools were involved, except for one USC administrator.
The scheme began in 2011 and affects students still in school. The federal investigation began just over a year ago. “This is a case where [the parents] flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense, to cheat the system and set their children up for success with the best education money could buy — literally,” FBI special agent Joseph Bonavolonta said. William Rick Singer, the owner of the college-counseling agency nicknamed “the Key” will enter his plea to racketeering charges on Tuesday afternoon.
Update, 1:30 p.m.: Felicity Huffman has been charged with felony conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, and has been arrested at her home in Los Angeles, according to CNN. Sources told ABC that Lori Loughlin, currently in Canada, has yet to be taken into custody. In total, 33 parents were charged in the case.
Update, 4:30 p.m.: According to CNN, Lori Loughlin is on a flight back to Los Angeles, where she’s expected to surrender to authorities. Loughlin deleted her Twitter account. The Full House star is facing a felony charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Earlier on Tuesday afternoon, William Rick Singer pleaded guilty to charges of racketeering, money laundering, tax conspiracy, and obstruction of justice. Singer’s attorney said he will cooperate with the authorities.
Update, March 13, 2:10 p.m.: Lori Loughlin, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud as part of “Operation Varsity Blues,” will appear in federal court today in Los Angeles at 2 p.m.