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 centres to help get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said.
Most of those charged either paid to get higher SAT scores or faked an athletic resume that, with the participation of a bribed college coach, helped the children get accepted to a college as a team's recruit.
The racketeering conspiracy charges unveiled Tuesday were also brought against athletic coaches at schools including Wake Forest University, Georgetown University and the University of Southern California.
$6.5 million - Allegedly spent in bribes from potential college parents for fake ACT/SAT scores, fabricated college entrance exams and money to secure athletics spots at universities.
The payment to KWF, which was set up by accused scam ringleader William Singer, was allegedly made to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of their eldest daughter Sofia Grace Macy. In a conversation last June with a cooperating witness, he was told his daughter needed to "be stupid" when a psychologist evaluated her for learning disabilities that would entitle her to more time to take the test, according to court papers.
The court documents allege that Huffman and Macy, who is referred to in the documents as "her spouse", paid $15,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF).
On a call with a wealthy parent, prosecutors said, Mr Singer summed up his business.
Huffman was in custody in Los Angeles, along with 11 others. Loughlin, best known for her role in the ABC sitcom "Full House" and the recent Netflix sequel "Fuller House", is married to clothing company founder Mossimo Giannulli, who was also charged in the scheme.
"For every student admitted through fraud an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected", he added.
Actresses Loughlin, Huffman charged in college fraud scheme
Some 300 law enforcement agents swept across the country to make arrests in what agents code-named "Operation Varsity Blues". A HALF A MILLION DOLLARS just to get them into USC? Both actresses are in custody, the Justice Department said.
The case is being described as the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the US Department of Justice.
At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance, fashion, the food and beverage industry and other fields, were charged.
In one instance highlighted by federal prosecutors, it is alleged that the head women's soccer coach at Yale was paid $400,000 to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer.
The test administrators in the those centres allegedly took bribes of tens of thousands of dollars to allow Mr Singer's clients to cheat, often by arranging to have wrong answers corrected or having another person take the exam.
"What is going to happen when they see his application, he'll be flagged as an athlete", Singer told him in a phone conversation recorded by investigators.
The indictment was filed by the United States attorney for the District of MA, and the documents outlining the racketeering conspiracy charges were unsealed on March 12.
Singer entered a guilty plea to racketeering and other charges Tuesday in federal court.