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TV stars including Desperate Housewives' Felicity Huffman charged in college bribery scheme

Several defendants were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
Image: AP/PA Images

FIFTY PEOPLE, INCLUDING Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were charged today in a scheme in which wealthy parents allegedly bribed college coaches and other insiders to get their children into some of the US’s most elite schools.

Federal authorities called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the US Justice Department, with the parents accused of paying an estimated $25 million (€23 million) in bribes.

“These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege,” US Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the results of an investigation code-named Operation Varsity Blues.

At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance, fashion, manufacturing and other fields, were among those charged. Dozens, including Huffman, the Emmy-winning star of Desperate Housewives, were arrested by midday.

The coaches worked at such schools as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.

No students were charged, with authorities saying that in many cases the teenagers were not aware of what was going on. And several of the colleges involved made no mention of expelling or taking any other action against the students.

Prosecutors said parents paid an admissions consultant from 2011 through last month to bribe coaches and administrators to falsely make their children look like star athletes to boost their chances of getting into college. The consultant also hired ringers to take college entrance exams for students, and paid off insiders at testing centres to alter students’ scores.

“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected,” Lelling said.

Several defendants, including Huffman, were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

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Associated Press

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