Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged along with almost 50 other people Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said. Coaches allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for admitting students as athletes, regardless of their ability.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a press conference Tuesday that in other instances students faces were edited into photos of athletes. "For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected".
On Tuesday, Huffman was arrested for allegedly taking part along with numerous others, including sitcom star Lori Loughlin, in a scam described as, "the largest college admission fraud ever uncovered".
Some 300 law enforcement agents swept across the country to make arrests in what agents code-named "Operation Varsity Blues".
Prosecutors are saying the scheme was orchestrated by William Rick Singer, who is the founder of a for-profit college preparation business based in California and disguised as a charity.
Federal agents say they have recorded telephone calls with Huffman and a cooperating witness.
None of the students were charged and most remain at the universities, he said.
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Prosecutors said the Giannullis then paid $50,000 to a USC athletics administrator, Donna Heinel, who presented their daughter "to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported crew recruit". The indictment says Huffman's daughter received a score of 1420 on her SAT ... an improvement of approximately 400 points over her PSAT.
Lelling added that none of the universities were charged in the scheme, and were not seen as co-conspirators.
A false athletic profile created for the student said she played competitive soccer and had been on China's junior national development team. A HALF A MILLION DOLLARS just to get them into USC? Both actresses are in custody, the Justice Department said.
The pair allegedly arranged a similar scheme for their younger daughter.
Part of the scheme involved advising parents to lie to test administrators that their child had learning disabilities that allowed them extra exam time.
"I don't know how much of school I'm gonna attend", Giannulli said in one video clip where she talks about her plans for school.
The afternoon court appearance is after seven federal officers reportedly showed up at their Hollywood Hills home this morning with guns drawn while the family was asleep, including their two daughters, sources shared with TMZ.