Nearly 50 people, including high profile CEOs and famous actresses, have been charged by federal prosecutors in Boston in connection with the largest college admissions cheating scam in U.S. history.
On Tuesday, actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among 40 people arrested for paying bribes to college admissions officials to get their children accepted into top universities including Georgetown, Stanford, UCLA and Yale, reported WTVD-TV.
As part of the sting operation, named Varsity Blues, investigators learned 33 parents collectively paid $25 million to a college admissions counselor named William Singer, who would bribe officials, coaches, and entrance exam administrators to secure admission for the applicants. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling described the suspects as "catalog of wealth and privilege.”
Singer has already pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate in an investigation.
Officials say 13 people were arrested by the FBI in Los Angeles , while 38 of the 50 defendants charged are under arrest and in custody.
Huffman, who was arrested at her home, and her husband, actor William H. Macy, allegedly “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,” reported Fortune.
Loughlin, who starred in Full House, is in Canada but has been made aware that there is a warrant for her arrest. Macy is not charged or named in court documents.
As part of the scam, Singer would sometimes arrange for a student to take the SAT individually with a proctor he had bribed in Texas or California. In other cases, Singer allegedly bribed coaches to establish fake student athlete credentials even though the applicants did not play the sport in question.
In one instance mentioned by federal prosecutors, the head women's soccer coach at Yale was allegedly paid $400,000 to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer. The parents of that student had allegedly paid Singer $1.2 million. The Yale coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.
According to court documents, Loughlin and her husband "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."
Loughlin's husband, Mossimo Giannulli, is also among those under arrest.
"Today's arrest should be a warning to others," the FBI's Joseph Bonavolonta told reporters at a press conference. "You can't pay to play. You can't cheat to get ahead, because you will get caught."
While prosecutors have not ruled out charging the students, they have reason to believe that in most cases, they were unaware of their parent’s actions.
The suspects were mostly charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.