BOSTON (CN) – Federal prosecutors unsealed sweeping charges Tuesday to accuse top college coaches, multiple corporate CEOs and even two famous actresses of participating in $25 million admissions-bribery scheme.
Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” and Lori Loughlin of “Full House” are among the 33 parents accused of flouting the law to get their children into top-flight schools like Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest, Georgetown, the University of California – Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, the University of San Diego and the University of Texas.
Prosecutors say the Edge College & Career Network offered ambitious parents two options: one involved fake learning disabilities to get the students more time when taking the SAT and ACT college-entrance exams, and another where college coaches were bribed to designate the students as athletes, so that they would face a lower academic threshold for admission.
The Edge, which is also known as The Key, was founded in 2007 by William Rick Singer and incorporated in 2012. Prosecutors say Singer also created a charitable nonprofit called the Key Worldwide Foundation that was used to funnel the bribes,
“Parents generally paid Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 per test, typically structuring the payments as purported donations to KWF that they wired or deposited into one of the KWF charitable accounts,” the indictment states.
Prosecutors say Singer used bribes to pay the administrators of two private schools that were approved as SAT or ACT test sites – one in Los Angeles, California, and one in Houston, Texas.
To have their children classified as learning disabled. parents were allegedly encouraged to use false medical records and then concoct a basis to have their children take the SATs or ACTs at one of the two schools in California and Texas where Singer allegedly had bribed officials.
Prosecutors say Singer had another resource: an individual named Mark Riddell whom he paid to take ACT and SAT exams on behalf of students or to correct their exams before they had to be submitted.
The FBI said Felicity Huffman was one of 13 defendants taken into custody in the Los Angeles area. Loughlin was not taken into custody, but her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was arrested at their home.
Prosecutors have not divulged why the papers do not name Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy.
Broken up into four sections, the affidavit says Huffman made a $15,000 charitable contribution as part of the SAT/ACT scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter and arranged to do it again “for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so.”
Prosecutors say Loughlin and her husband meanwhile shelled out “$500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
Nine coaches at elite schools are among those charged. Wake Forest University in North Carolina said it has suspended its head volleyball coach, Bill Ferguson, as it begins an investigation.
William McGlashan, who is CEO of a private equity firm he founded, and Jane Buckingham, CEO of a boutique marketing firm in Los Angeles, are among the other defendants.