BOSTON (CN) – The actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin made brief court appearances Wednesday three weeks after they were charged along with dozens of other wealthy parents in a nationwide college admissions scandal.
Throngs of onlookers, including many self-proclaimed “Aunt Becky” fans, waited outside the Moakley Courthouse in South Boston for the stars to walk past.
The homage is a reference to Loughlin’s role on “Full House” in the early 1990s. Further fueling the case’s Hollywood luster, the FBI has dubbed the investigation “Operation Varsity Blues.”
Loughlin, 54, and her 55-year-old husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters scouted by the University of Southern California crew team.
Wednesday’s hearing also involved charges against Huffman, 56, of “Desperate Housewives” fame. Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, is not facing any charges but the actress is accused of paying $15,000 to boost her oldest daughter’s SAT score by having another individual correct her work.
Three people charged in the case have already pleaded guilty, including ringleader, William Rick Singer, who ran a college admissions program called the Edge College & Career Network.
Prosecutors say the Edge College & Career Network offered ambitious parents two options: one involved faking a learning disabilities to get students more time when taking the SAT and ACT college-entrance exams, and another involved bribing college coaches to designate students as athletes so that they would face a lower academic threshold for admission.
Along with Loughlin, Giannulli and Huffman, 10 other parents made their first appearances in court this afternoon.
Each of the parents brought before the court today faces charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit fraud.
The defendants made their initial appearances, but none were arraigned, so none was required to enter a plea. They instead were just required to affirm that they understood the charges they faced.
Loughlin surrendered her passport in California, as per an order from U.S. District Judge Page Kelley that the defendants not travel internationally unless they must for business.
“In general, I am discouraging that,” said Kelley. “Business travel must be for a significant purpose.”
Homayoun Zadeh, the chair USC’s dental school, was the sole defendant granted international travel.
Judge Kelley also reversed one of her previous orders by stating that accused parents were now allowed to discuss the case with their family, though she cautioned against discussing possible obstruction charges with children who might get called to the witness stand.
“I just don’t think that’s realistic, and I just don’t think that’s good for parents to not be able to speak to their children without counsel present,” said Kelley.