Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among more than a dozen people expected to appear in federal court in Boston Wednesday in connection with a nationwide college-admissions cheating scheme involving universities including USC and UCLA.
Loughlin, best known for her role as Aunt Becky on “Full House,” and her husband J. Mossimo Giannulli are accused of paying nearly a half-million dollars to have their two daughters illicitly admitted to USC as recruits to the university’s crew team, even though neither of them had ever participated in the sport.
Huffman, famed for her work on “Desperate Housewives,” is accused of paying $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to the nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation — run by the scheme’s admitted ring-leader, William Rick Singer, to have someone correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT. She ended up scoring 1420 — 400 points higher than she had gotten on a PSAT taken a year earlier, The Washington Post reported.
Huffman also contemplated running a similar scam to help her younger daughter, but ultimately did not pursue it, the federal complaint alleges.
Huffman’s husband, award-winning actor William H. Macy, is not charged in the scheme.
Loughlin, 54, and Huffman, 56, are both charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Loughlin and Giannulli are both free on $1 million bond, while Huffman is free on $250,000 bond.
Fifty people have been indicted in connection with the scheme. Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, pleaded guilty last month in Boston to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Federal officials said the scheme involved wealthy parents paying sometimes-exorbitant bribes to bolster their children’s chances of being admitted to elite universities.
Several coaches at local universities were arrested in connection with the alleged $25 million scheme. Federal prosecutors said wealthy parents would pay thousands of dollars to get their children admitted to prestigious universities by passing them off as recruited athletes — regardless of their athletic ability — or by helping them cheat on college entrance exams.
Federal prosecutors said that in some cases, the ruse over fake athletic recruiting included the use of staged or faked photos of the students posing with athletic equipment or appearing to compete in sports they did not actually play.
Athletic coaches from USC, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest and Georgetown, among others, were implicated in the scheme, as well as parents and entrance-exam administrators.
There was no indication that the schools themselves were involved in the scheme.
When federal authorities announced the indictments, USC announced that two of its employees implicated in the scandal — water polo coach Jovan Vavic and senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel — had been fired. UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo was placed on leave but later resigned.