Thirteen people, including Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, were arrested Tuesday in Los Angeles in connection with an alleged multimillion-dollar nationwide bribery scheme to get students into elite colleges, including USC, UCLA and Stanford.
The alleged conspiracy focused on getting students admitted to prestigious universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to a 50-defendant indictment unsealed in federal court in Boston.
Loughlin, best known for her role in the sitcom “Full House,” and Huffman, who starred in the ABC show “Desperate Housewives,” are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud, according to the indictment.
The plot involved students who attended or were seeking to attend USC, UCLA, the University of San Diego, Georgetown University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, Wake Forest and Yale, according to federal prosecutors.
There’s no indication that the schools were involved in any of the wrongdoing.
Among those charged are include longtime UCLA soccer coach Jorge Salcedo and USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic, according to documents released by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Both are charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering.
USC said in a statement that it is cooperating in the wide-ranging probe, dubbed operation “Varsity Blues? by federal investigators.
“We are aware of the ongoing wide-ranging criminal investigation involving universities nationwide, including USC,” the school’s statement said. “USC has not been accused of any wrongdoing. We will continue to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation. We understand that the government believes that illegal activity was carried out by individuals who went to great lengths to conceal their actions from the university.”
Described by authorities as the alleged mastermind of the plot is a man named William Rick Singer, who is expected to appear in court in Boston on Tuesday, possibly to enter a guilty plea.
Officials said the plot involved cheating on entrance exams, as well as bribing college officials to say certain students were coming to compete on athletic teams when those students were not in fact athletes.
Some of the defendants are accused of bribing college entrance exam administrators to cheat on college entrance exams through a variety of means — by having a smarter student take the test for them, or by providing students with answers to exams or correcting their answers after they had completed the exams, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court.
Others allegedly bribed university athletic coaches and administrators to designate applicants as “purported athletic recruits” — even though they did not play the sport they were purportedly recruited to play.
Parents allegedly paid up to $6.5 million in bribes. Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to the Key Worldwide Foundation to aid her oldest daughter’s university prospects. A confidential informant told investigators that he told Huffman he could arrange for a third party to correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT after she took it, The Washington Post reported. She ended up scoring a 1420 — 400 points higher than she had gotten on a PSAT taken a year earlier.
Huffman also contemplated running a similar scam to help her younger daughter, but ultimately did not pursue it, the complaint alleges.
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