Advertisement
  1. Nation & World

TV stars and coaches charged in college bribery scheme

Published Mar. 12, 2019

BOSTON — Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged along with nearly 50 other people Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to help get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said.

"These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the $25 million federal bribery case.

He called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.

At least nine athletic coaches and dozens of parents were among those charged. A total of 46 people were arrested by midday, including Huffman and Loughlin, in an investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, federal authorities said.

The case also has ties to Tampa Bay.

One of the unnamed cooperating witnesses was the "director of college entrance exam preparation at a private college preparatory school and sports academy" in Bradenton. The school is not named.

One of the individuals charged was Mark Riddell, a Palmetto resident. A man by that name held that title at IMG Academy, which matches the document's description. Riddell's bio on the IMG website has since been removed.

According to one indictment, an unnamed man flew from Tampa to take the SAT for the children of businessman David Sidoo.

Prosecutors said parents paid an admissions consultant from 2011 through last month to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes, to alter test scores and to have others take online classes to boost their children's chances of getting into schools.

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their children's admission, officials said.

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

Lelling said the investigation is continuing and authorities believe other parents were involved. The schools themselves are not targets of the investigation, he said.

No students were charged. Authorities said in many cases the students were not aware of the fraud.

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

Authorities said coaches in such sports as soccer, tennis and volleyball accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience. That, in turn, boosted the students' chances of admission.

The bribes allegedly came through an admissions consulting company in Newport Beach, California. Authorities said parents paid the founder of the Edge College & Career Network approximately $25 million to get their children into college.

Loughlin appeared in the ABC sitcom "Full House," and Huffman starred in ABC's "Desperate Housewives." Both were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Court documents said Huffman paid $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation so that her daughter could take part in the college entrance cheating scam.

Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained the scam to them. The cooperator told investigators that Huffman and her spouse "agreed to the plan."

A spokeswoman for Loughlin had no comment. Messages seeking comment from Huffman's representatives were not immediately returned.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

  1. In this Oct. 28, 2019, file photo, President Donald Trump shakes hands with Attorney General William Barr before Trump signed an executive order creating a commission to study law enforcement and justice at the International Association of Chiefs of Police Convention in Chicago.
  2. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, shakes hands with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani,during the 56th Munich Security Conference (MSC) in Munich, southern Germany, on Friday. The 2020 edition of the Munich Security Conference (MSC) takes place from Friday to Sunday. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool photo via AP)
  3. In this July 11, 2019, file photo, Attorney General William Barr, left, and President Donald Trump turn to leave after speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington. Attorney General William Barr took a public swipe Thursday at President Donald Trump, saying that the president’s tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.”  Barr made the comment during an interview with ABC News just days after the Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors. they had initially recommended in a court filing that President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and confidant Roger Stone be sentenced to 7 to 9 years in prison. But the next day, the Justice Department took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek for Stone. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)
  4. New Air Force dress guidelines released Feb. 7, 2020 set standards allowing personnel to wear turbans, hijabs and beards.
  5. FILE - In this July 11, 2019, file photo, Attorney General William Barr, left, and President Donald Trump turn to leave after speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House, in Washington. Attorney General William Barr took a public swipe Thursday at President Donald Trump, saying that the president’s tweets about Justice Department prosecutors and cases “make it impossible for me to do my job.”  Barr made the comment during an interview with ABC News just days after the Justice Department overruled its own prosecutors. they had initially recommended in a court filing that President Donald Trump’s longtime ally and confidant Roger Stone be sentenced to 7 to 9 years in prison. But the next day, the Justice Department took the extraordinary step of lowering the amount of prison time it would seek for Stone.
  6. This undated photo provided by the Cayce Department of Public Safety shows Faye Marie Swetlik, who has been missing since shortly after getting off her school bus near her South Carolina home Monday. Investigators say they have no evidence that the girl was kidnapped from her neighborhood in the state's central city of Cayce, S.C. Authorities have not ruled out that the girl was abducted (Cayce Department of Public Safety via AP)
  7. In this Jan. 29, 2020, file photo, a tourist wearing a mask poses for a photo with the Olympic rings in the background, at Tokyo's Odaiba district. Tokyo Olympic organizers repeated their message at the start of two days of meetings with the IOC: this summer's games will not be cancelled or postponed by the coronavirus spreading  neighboring China. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
  8. This Oct. 14, 2009 file photo, shows copies of the McClatchy Co. owned Miami Herald newspaper in Miami. McClatchy Co., the publisher of the Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star and dozens of other newspapers across the country is filing for bankruptcy protection. McClatchy Co. said Thursday, that it will continue to run normally as it pursues approval of its restructuring plan under Chapter 11.   (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee, File)
  9. President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno in the Oval Office of the White House, Wednesday, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
  10. Iowa Democratic Party chairman Troy Price speaks to members of the media during a news conference, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
  11. In this Saturday image taken from video, a voter registration tent lays on its side after Gregory Timm drove a van through it, in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Sunday Timm was arrested in the incident. (WJXT News4Jax via AP)
  12. Siba, the standard poodle, competes for Best in Show during the 144th Westminster Kennel Club dog show, Tuesday, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement