Actress Felicity Huffman is one of 14 defendants who will plead guilty in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions cheating scandal that has slammed elite universities this spring. (ABCnews.com)
Huffman, 56, and the others each plan to plead guilty in US District Court in Boston. They have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, federal prosecutors reported Monday. Huffman could get up to 20 years in prison, three years probation and a fine of $250,000.
Shortly after she pleaded guilty in court, Huffman released a press statement that said she was ashamed of what she has put her family through. Huffman said she was pleading guilty to the charge that was brought by the US Attorney’s Office, noting she is in full acceptance of her guilty, and feels shame and regret over what she did.
The actress if most famous for her role in Transamerica where she was nominated for an Academy Award, and for playing one of the key characters in the TV show Desperate Housewives. It is alleged by federal prosecutors that Huffman paid $15,000 to William Singer, who has been fingered by the feds as the leader of the national cheating scandal. The money was payment to help her daughter to get good scores on the ACT and SAT exams.
Huffman and her husband, actor William Macy, later tried to pursue the illegal scheme a second time for their other daughter, before they decided not to do it. Macy has not been charged.
Huffman also said she is ashamed of the pain she caused her family, daughter, friends, colleagues and the universities involved. She added that she wanted to apologize to the students who work so hard to get into college and to parents who make financial sacrifices to help their children to succeed in college and in life.
13 Parents and Athletic Coach Plead Guilty
The 13 parents and a college athletic coach, Michael Center, 5444, head coach of men’s tennis at the University of Texas at Austin, agreed to plead guilty to federal charges, including bribery and other forms of fraud. Plea hearings for those charges have not yet been held.
Together, it is thought the 13 parents paid almost $2 million in bribes to Singer to rig the ACT and SAT entrance exams so they could get into some of the best colleges in the country. This was done by bolstering their college applications with phony information.
The news of the guilty pleas came just days after Stanford University reported it expelled a student that was involved in the college admission scandal. The school had launched a probe and discovered she used fake sailing credentials to improve her application.
The expelled Stanford student is one of three applicants at that university who were being investigated after the scam that cast a shadow over Stanford’s admissions team. Also, the school’s sailing coach, John Vandemoer, was fired in March after he pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy related to the national cheating scandal.
Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin Best Known Defendants in Blockbuster Scandal
Huffman and actress Lori Loughlin are the most well known defendants that have been named in the federal indictment. Loughlin is best known for playing Aunt Becky in the sitcom Full House. She was charged in the cheating scandal along with her husband Mossimo Giannulli, 55. Both made their initial court appearance last week in federal court in Boston. Neither has entered a plea to the charges.
Other parents who pleaded guilty to the federal charges are Bruce Isackson, 61, and his wife, Davina Isackson, 55. Isackson, who is president of a large commercial real estate investment company, and his wife have been charged with conspiracy to engage in mail fraud as well as honest services mail fraud. It is alleged they gave Singer at least $600,000 in stock, including Facebook shares, if he would rig one of their daughters’ ACT tests so she could get into USC as a rowing recruit even though she had never rowed.
That couple also agreed to give Singer more stock to get another daughter into UCLA on the soccer team even though she had never played competitively.
Singer Pleading Guilty
Singer, from Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court in March. The charges where racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of justice.
It is alleged that Singer accepted bribes of $25 million from 2011 to 2018 from parents to get their children into top colleges, such as Stanford, USC, Yale, UCLA, Georgetown and the University of Texas at Austin.
Mark Riddell, 36, a school counselor from Bradenton, Florida, who worked tightly with Singer in the scandal, also is expected to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, honest services mail fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
It is alleged by the US government that Riddell took ACT and SAT exams for high school students as part of the cheating scandal. Riddell said in a press release that he wanted to say how sorry he was for the damage he had done and the grief caused to those for engaging in these illegal acts.
How Much Prison Time?
Some insiders say Loughlin might get only four months in prison. The plea deals being offered in the scandal largely depend on how much they paid in bribes and whether they have accepted responsibility for their illegal actions. So, the more money parents used to bribe people, the more prison time they will get. Loughlin and Giannulli, if they take a deal, probably would get at least two years in federal prison. They are accused of paying $500,000 to get two daughters into USC. (AOL.com)
- 14 Defendants Including Felicity Huffman Plead Guilty in College Scandal. (2019). Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/US/14-defendants-including-felicity-huffman-plead-guilty-college/story?id=62247364
- Felicity Huffman Pleads Guilty - How Much Prison Time? (2019). Retrieved from https://www.aol.com/article/entertainment/2019/04/09/felicity-huffman-pleads-guilty-prison-time/23708702/