Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin among dozens charged in college entrance bribery scheme
On Tuesday, the Justice Department charged 50 people, including Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman and Full House actress Lori Loughlin, of being part of a massive nationwide college entrance exam cheating plot. Wealthy parents are accused of bribing school officials and SAT/ACT administrators to get their children into prestigious universities despite lackluster grades.
The scheme involved cheating on students' SAT and ACT entrance exams, which was facilitated "in some cases by posing as the actual students, and in others by providing students with answers during the exams or by correcting their answers after they had completed the exams," according to the criminal complaint. "In many instances, the students taking the exams were unaware that their parents had arranged for this cheating," the FBI added.
In addition, college administrators and athletic coaches were paid about $25 million in bribes between 2011 and 2018. In exchange for the money, they allegedly agreed "to designate applicants as purported athletic recruits — regardless of their athletic abilities, and in some cases, even though they did not play the sport they were purportedly recruited to play." In order to pass some students off as athletes, they posed for staged photos playing sports. Others had their faces photoshopped onto real athletes' bodies.
The schools targeted include Georgetown, Yale, Stanford, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and UCLA. "There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy and I will add there will not be a separate criminal justice system either," US Attorney Andrew Lelling said. "For every student admitted through fraud an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected."
According to the criminal complaint, Felicity Huffman paid $15,000, disguised as a charitable donation, for her oldest daughter to take the SAT exam at a "controlled" testing center. At that facility, an organizer would arrange for a third party to correct her daughter's answers afterward without her knowledge. When her daughter's high school attempted to make her take the exam on campus, Huffman wrote, "Ruh Ro! Looks like [my daughter's high school] wants to provide its own proctor," according to court documents.
Ultimately, Huffman's daughter took the exam at the "controlled" testing center, where she scored a 1420, which is 400 points higher than she scored on the PSAT one year earlier. Huffman contemplated carrying out a similar scam again to help her younger daughter, but opted not to go through with it. Her husband, William H. Macy, is referred to as "spouse" in the complaint, but has not been charged.
Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were charged with paying $500,000 in bribes to designate their two daughters as recruits for the crew team at the University of Southern California, despite the fact they were not part of a crew team. To verify they played the sport, Giannulli submitted photos of his children on an indoor rowing machine. The parents were charged with conspiracy to mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.