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Felicity Huffman on College Admissions Scandal: "It felt Like I Would Be a Bad Mother If I Didn't Do It"
“People assume that I went into this looking for a way to cheat the system, and making proverbial criminal deals in back alleys, but that was not the case,” Huffman told ABC-7.
She opened up about her decision to participate in the college admissions bribery scheme in an interview with ABC-7 Eyewitness News that aired Thursday.
Why did Felicity Huffman take part in the college admissions scandal?
"It felt like I had to give my daughter a chance at a future," Huffman told ABC-7. "And so it was sort of like my daughter's future, which meant I had to break the law."
In 2019, the Desperate Housewives star pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after she was accused of paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT scores altered.
How much time did Felicity Huffman spend in prison for the college admissions scandal?
Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison, but was released after serving 11 days in October of 2019. She was additionally sentenced to a one-year probation period, as well as a $30,000 fine and 250 hours of community service.
Huffman was one of many wealthy parents exposed in the scandal that federal investigators dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” which uncovered their efforts to buy their children into prestigious schools around the country. Full House actress Lori Loughin also served time after paying $500,000 to get her two daughters into the University of Southern California.
“People assume that I went into this looking for a way to cheat the system, and making proverbial criminal deals in back alleys, but that was not the case,” Huffman told ABC-7. “I worked with a highly recommended college counselor named Rick Singer. I worked with him for a year and trusted him implicitly. And he recommended programs and tutors, and he was the expert.”
Singer, the mastermind behind the decades-long scheme, racked up more than $25 million from clients desperate to send their children to top schools before he was eventually exposed.
In 2019, the admissions counselor pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstruction of justice. In January of 2023, Singer was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison and was ordered to pay more than $10 million in restitution.
What did Felicity Huffman say about college admissions scandal mastermind Rick Singer?
"After a year, he started to say, 'Your daughter is not going to get into any of the colleges that she wants to,'" Huffman said of the time period after she hired Singer. "And I believed him. And so, when he slowly started to present the criminal scheme, it seems like — and I know this seems crazy — at the time that that was my only option to give my daughter a future. And I know hindsight is 20/20 but it felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn't do it. So, I did it."
Huffman, who says her daughter had no knowledge of her crimes in the scandal, remembered having second thoughts while driving her daughter to the exam.
"She was going, 'Can we get ice cream afterwards? I'm scared about the test. What can we do that's fun?,’” Huffman recalled. “And I kept thinking, ‘Turn around, just turn around.’ And to my undying shame, I didn't."
Felicity Huffman thought her arrest in the college admissions scandal was a joke
When the FBI showed up at her door months later, the Emmy-winning actress remembered thinking that it wasn’t real.
"I thought it was a hoax," she told ABC-7. “I literally turned to one of the FBI people, in a flak jacket and a gun, and I went, 'Is this a joke?'"
She added, "I think the people I owe a debt and apology to is the academic community, and to the students and the families that sacrifice and work really hard to get to where they are going legitimately."
Now, the actress is working with a nonprofit to help women recently released from prison.
"I want to use my experience and what I've gone through and the pain to bring something good, which is to shine a light on Susan Burton's organization called A New Way of Life," Huffman said.
According to the organization's website, it offers safe housing, legal services and family reunification efforts to formerly incarcerated women. After doing her 250 hours of community service with the group, Huffman stayed on and joined the board of directors, ABC-7 reported.
"They heal one woman at a time," Huffman said of the nonprofit. "And if you heal one woman, you heal her children, you heal her grandchildren and you heal the community."
Burton, the founder of A New Way of Life, said: "Felicity Huffman is one of the most beautiful people I've met in my lifetime. And I know she has had a hiccup. But it's not the hiccup — it's how you come through the hiccup."