“Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman and 12 other parents across the country have agreed to plead guilty to charges stemming from a wide-ranging college-admissions cheating scandal, federal prosecutors announced Monday.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, Huffman has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for paying $15,000 to have her oldest daughter’s answers corrected on the SAT college-entrance exam.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the conspiracy charge normally carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine up to $250,000. Under the terms of her plea agreement, federal prosecutors say Huffman is facing between four and 10 months in prison, although her attorneys are expected to argue that her crime receive a lower classification, entitling her to a sentence of zero to six months behind bars.
The document notes that prosecutors will ask for the low end of the four-to-10-month range, along with a fine of $20,000, one year of supervised release and a to-be-determined amount of restitution.
A date has not yet been set for Huffman to enter her plea.
The 56-year-old actress issued a statement saying she is “in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.”
“I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community,” she said. “I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.
“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her5 and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty.”
Also among the parents who have agreed to plead guilty are Jane Buckingham, 50, of Beverly Hills; Robert Flaxman, 62, of Laguna Beach; Stephen Semprevivo, 53, of Los Angeles; and Devin Sloane, 53, of Los Angeles.
In addition to the 13 parents, former University of Texas at Austin men’s tennis coach Michael Center also agreed to plead guilty, admitting to accepting bribes to have an applicant admitted to the university as a tennis recruit, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Actress Lori Loughlin, 54, best known for her work on “Full House,” has not yet reached a plea deal with prosecutors. She is accused of paying admitted ringleader William Rick Singer $500,000 to have her two daughters admitted to USC as recruits to the crew team, even though neither had ever participated in the rowing sport.
According to prosecutors, Huffman paid the Newport Beach businessman $15,000 — disguised as a donation to his charitable foundation — to have her daughter’s answers on the SAT college-entrance exam corrected to improve her final score. Court documents state that Singer paid a man to proctor the SAT exam taken by Huffman’s daughter and the children of several other clients. In Huffman’s case, the proctor corrected her daughter’s test answers, giving her a final score of 1420 — 400 points better than she had previously scored on the PSAT exam.
Huffman’s husband, award-winning actor William H. Macy, was not charged in the scheme. Huffman remains free on $250,000 bond.
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.