By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – Actress Felicity Huffman tearfully pleaded guilty on Monday to paying to rig a college entrance exam for her daughter, part of a wide-ranging scandal in which wealthy parents used fraud to secure their children spots at prominent U.S. universities.
The onetime star of the television series “Desperate Housewives” pleaded guilty in federal court in Boston to a conspiracy charge related to her payment of $15,000 to have someone secretly correct her daughter’s answers on the SAT exam.
Huffman is among 50 people accused of taking part in a scheme that involved cheating or bribery. Wealthy parents paid a total of $25 million to bribe coaches to help their children gain spots at universities like Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California (USC).
William “Rick” Singer, a California college admissions consultant, pleaded guilty in March to charges that he facilitated the cheating and helped bribe university sports coaches to present clients’ children as fake athletic recruits.
Prosecutors have charged 33 parents with participating in the scheme with Singer, including Huffman, who was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in 2005’s “Transamerica,” and Lori Loughlin, who starred in the TV series “Full House.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen said Huffman, 56, arranged through Singer to have an associate acting as an SAT proctor for her daughter’s exam correct her daughter’s answers at a test centre he controlled through bribery.
Crying, Huffman, who is married to the actor William H. Macy, stressed that her daughter did not know about the crime.
“Everything else Mr. Rosen said I did, I did,” she said.
She exited the courthouse holding her brother’s hand while taking no questions from reporters.
Twenty people so far have agreed to plead guilty since officials carried out a wave of arrests under the code name “Operation Varsity Blues” on March 12. Prosecutors have said the investigation is ongoing.
Huffman pleaded guilty alongside another parent charged in the case, California businessman Devin Sloane, who prosecutors said paid Singer $250,000 to help his oldest son gain admission to USC as a purported water polo recruit.
Prosecutors have agreed to recommended a four-month prison sentence for Huffman and a $20,000 fine and a year in prison for Sloane, 53, and a $75,000 fine, Rosen said. They are scheduled to be sentenced in September.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone, Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)