Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among 50 charged in a nationwide college entrance exam scandal, according to court documents filed Tuesday in Boston.
Several NCAA D-1 college coaches, company CEOs and one college administrator have also been implicated in the scandal utilizing 200 FBI agents, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”
Documents show those indicted allegedly paid millions in bribes to get their children into elite colleges. Those colleges include Yale, Stanford and the University of Southern California.
Arrest warrants have been issued. Thirteen of the accused were taken into custody Tuesday morning in the Los Angeles area, including Huffman, according to reports.
As of Tuesday night, Loughlin was still not in custody.
Feds are basing the case on interviews with witnesses, bank records, flight records, emails, cell site data and wiretaps. The charges were authorized by a grand jury.
The scheme, in some instances, involved parents paying the founder of a college prep business in California, to have someone take the SAT or ACT for their children, according to authorities. Prosecutors alleged that the man also paid around $25 million in bribes to coaches and administrators to pretend client’s children were athletic recruits, thereby guaranteeing admission. The man pleaded guilty in Boston federal court around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice, according to reports.
Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to USC, through the man’s operation, in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the college’s crew team — even though they did not participate in crew — thereby guaranteeing their admission in the college, according to documents. The couple faces charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Huffman and her spouse, William H. Macy, are accused of disguising a $15,000 charitable payment in the bribery scheme. The charging papers refer to Macy as “spouse.” He hasn’t been indicted. She also faces the charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
According to charging documents, a “confidential witness” met with Huffman at her home and explained that he “controlled” a SAT testing center and could arrange for someone to proctor the taking of the test and then correct her daughter’s answers afterward. Huffman is said to have later exchanged emails with this individual in an effort to get 100 percent extra time for her daughter and to facilitate the taking of the SATs away from her school.
Huffman’s daughter is said to have taken the test in December 2017 and received a 1420 on the test, a 400 point improvement from a previous test. Last October, Huffman discussed repeating this for her youngest daughter in a taped conversation that evidently the FBI has obtained. However, Huffman did not go through with the cheating for her youngest daughter, according to court papers.
Also included in the documents on Tuesday, and charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, is TPG’s Bill McGlashan, Hollywood investor and co-founder of STX.
The founder of a college prep business in California has agreed to plead guilty to racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice (after alerting several subjects of the investigation of the government probe), according to court papers, and has been cooperating since September 2018 in a bid for leniency.
In all, 50 people around the country were charged in the alleged cheating and recruitment scam.
It will certainly be interesting to see how this case unfolds. Cheating scandals are not something necessarily new, but has definitely grown in popularity within the last decade.
Mail fraud embodies a wide variety of crimes and can extend into other types of fraud as well. Any act of fraud that involves the mail is mail fraud. Many mail fraud charges are accompanied by conspiracy charges.
If you have been accused of mail fraud, you must enlist the help of a criminal defense attorney that has experience handling these complex cases. Our Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton have the experience and knowledge needed to intervene early and overcome these charges quickly. Even if you have not been charged and are simply under investigation, our early involvement could result in charges not being filed at all. If charges are filed, we will fight aggressively to overcome them. If you have already been charged, we will conduct a thorough investigation, attack all evidence against you, and establish a strong defense to protect your innocence.