By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – Actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among 15 wealthy parents due in Boston federal court on Wednesday to face charges that they participated in what prosecutors call the largest college admissions scam uncovered in U.S. history.
They are among 50 people federal prosecutors allege participated in schemes that involved cheating on college exams and paying $25 million in bribes to buy the children of affluent Americans seats in well-known universities including Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
The scam’s mastermind, California college admissions consultant Rick Singer, has pleaded guilty to overseeing a racketeering scheme in which parents paid to help their children cheat on admissions tests and bribe coaches to present them as elite prospects in sports including sailing, crew and water polo even if they had no athletic experience.
“Desperate Housewives” star Huffman and “Full House” actor Loughlin, along with a former chief executive and a major law firm’s onetime chairman, are part of the group scheduled to make their first appearances in Boston court.
Prosecutors allege that Loughlin and her husband, Los Angeles fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to pay $500,000 to have their two daughters named as recruits to USC’s crew team, even though they did not row competitively.
Prosecutors said Huffman, who is married to the actor William H. Macy, made a $15,000 contribution to Singer’s foundation in exchange for having an associate of Singer’s in 2017 secretly correct her daughter’s answers on an SAT college entrance exam at a test centre Singer “controlled.”
Huffman later made arrangements to engage in the scheme again on her younger daughter’s behalf before deciding not to, prosecutors said.
Other accused parents expected to appear in court include Manuel Henriquez, the former chief executive of speciality finance company Hercules Capital Inc, and Gordon Caplan, the former co-chairman of the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher.
Henriquez resigned his position and Caplan was placed on leave after they were charged.
The U.S. Education Department has opened an investigation into eight universities linked to the scandal. Several of the schools have said they would revoke admissions offers to students who had gotten in fraudulently but not yet enrolled and would consider expelling students whose parents participated.
Prosecutors have not yet charged any applicants for illegal activity and said that in some cases the parents charged took steps to try to prevent their children from realizing they were benefiting from fraud.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; editing by Scott Malone and Susan Thomas)