Many wealthy parents, including celebrities like Fuller House star Lori Loughlin and Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman, are accused of allegedly cheating on ACT and SAT tests and bribing college coaches, according to an indictment in the US District Court in Massachusetts.
The actresses are among at least 40 people charged in the large-scale college entrance exam cheating scheme, which focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams.
The plot, run by California man William Rick Singer, involved students who attended or were seeking to attend Georgetown University, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Wake Forest and Yale, federal prosecutors said.
In all, 44 people, some of them college coaches, have been charged thus far. According to indictment documents, several of the defendants are employed as sports coaches or administrators at the USC, UCLA, and Yale and Wake Forest universities.
Tuesday's indictment, which spans from 2011 to 2019, alleges that in the scheme, a third party took the ACT and SAT college entrance exams in place of students and that some defendants created fake athletic profiles for students to make them appear to be successful athletes and get them into college. Authorities say coaches accepted bribes in exchange for admitting students as athletes, regardless of their ability.
In most cases, the students did not know their admission was contingent on a bribe, officials said.
Prosecutors say parents paid Singer's Key Worldwide Foundation charity $25 million to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes.
The students' parents would allegedly pay a specified amount of money fully aware it would be used to gain college admission. The money would then go toward an SAT or ACT administrator or a college athletic coach who would fake a profile for the prospective student — regardless of their athletic ability. Parents would allegedly pay up to $75,000 for each test and wire money to "charitable accounts."
At press time, 38 people have been successfully charged in "Operation Varsity Blues," while 7 were in the process of surrendering, the FBI's Boston office said in a press conference Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. One person was actively being pursued by officials.
Loughlin and Huffman were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. The FBI reportedly recorded phone calls involving the celebrities and a cooperating witness, according to a criminal complaint.
According to the charging papers, Huffman, who is married to Shameless actor William H. Macy, "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," the documents allege.
The documents say Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, "agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC."
Among the college coaches involved in the alleged scheme were Rudy Meredith, the former head women's soccer coach at Yale, and John Vandemoer, the sailing coach at Stanford University. A Georgetown tennis coach received bribe money between 2012 and 2018 from Singer that amounted to more than $2.7 million, according to the documents.0comments
Federal authorities had three cooperating witnesses to help them build the case; one is Singer, the founder of the non-profit Key Worldwide Foundation based in California; another worked as the director of college exam prep at a prep school and sports academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Singer is expected to plead guilty to racketeering, U.S. Attorney Andrew Telling said during the news conference.