A host of wealthy executives and Hollywood elites, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, have been accused of paying bribes through an illicit organization to have their kids accepted into the respected colleges and universities throughout the country.
Fifty people have been charged in the massive scam, in which up to $6 million was spent to have the children of wealthy parents placed into schools including Yale, Stanford, The University of Texas, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.
"The parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege," Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts said at a news conference Tuesday. "They include, for example, the CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm."
Thirty-three parents have been charged, as well as nine college coaches, two entrance exam administrators, an exam proctor and a college administrator.
It is unclear what penalties Huffman, best known for her work on "Desperate Housewives," and Loughlin, best known for her work on "Full House," potentially face.
The alleged crimes are detailed in an affidavit.
"Beginning in or about 2011, and continuing through the present, the defendants -- principally individuals whose high-school age children were applying to college -- conspired with others to use bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children's admission to colleges and universities in the District of Massachusetts and elsewhere," the affidavit reads.
William Rick Singer, the founder of the Key Worldwide Foundation, ostensibly a nonprofit college preparation business based in Newport Beach, California, has been named as the mastermind behind the alleged scheme, according to NBC News. Parents allegedly paid tens of thousands of dollars to have testers take the SAT and ACT exams in their children's stead or doctor them after the fact. Similarly, children were encouraged to seek more time for their tests by claiming they had learning disabilities. Children were also falsely designated as recruited athletes through Singer's organization, according to federal officials.
Huffman and her husband, 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," according to an FBI investigator.
Federal agents investigating the scam had secretly recorded conversations between Huffman and a cooperating witness, according to the indictment. Macy has not been charged in the case, or even named, but the affidavit does indicate Huffman's spouse was also in contact with Singer's organization.
Accordign to the affidavit, Huffman arranged to have her oldest daughter take the SAT at a testing facility affilated with KFW, where a proctor would be able to correct any wrong answers after she'd taken the exam.
Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly engaged in a slightly different plan that cost considerably more.
"[Loughlin and Giannuli] 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," according to the affidavit
In most cases, the students were not aware of the bribes being made on their behalf.
There is no indication that the schools were involved in any wrongdoing.
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