Actress, 12 other parents to plead guilty in college scheme

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

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BOSTON, USA (AP) — Actress Felicity Huffman and a dozen other prominent parents have agreed to plead guilty in the sweeping college admissions cheating scam that has ensnared wealthy families and athletic coaches at some of the nation's most selective universities, federal authorities said yesterday.

The Desperate Housewives star and the other parents will admit to charges in the scheme, which authorities say involved rigging standardised test scores and bribing coaches at such prestigious schools as Yale and Georgetown.

Huffman, 56, was accused of paying a consultant US$15,000, disguised as a charitable donation, to boost her daughter's SAT score. Authorities say the actress also discussed going through with the same plan for her younger daughter, but she ultimately decided not to.

Other parents charged in the scheme include prominent figures in law, finance, fashion, the food and beverage industry and other fields.

It's the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. The scandal embroiled elite universities across the country and laid bare the lengths to which status-seeking parents will go to secure their children a coveted spot.

The consultant, Rick Singer, met with Huffman and her husband, 69-year-old actor William H Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained to them he “controlled” a testing centre and could have somebody secretly change their daughter's answers, authorities say. Singer told investigators Huffman and her husband agreed to the plan.

Macy was not charged but authorities have not said why.

Huffman will plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud, according to court documents.

In her first public comments since her arrest last month, she apologised and said she accepts full responsibility for her actions and “will accept the consequences”.

Huffman said in a statement that her daughter did not know about her actions. She said her desire to help her daughter was “no excuse to break the law”.

Michael Center, the former men's tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin, has also agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors said yesterday. Center was accused of accepting nearly US$100,000 to help a non-tennis playing applicant get admitted as a recruit.

California real estate developer Bruce Isackson and his wife, Davina Isackson, who are pleading guilty to participating in both the athletic recruitment and exam-rigging schemes, are cooperating with prosecutors for a chance at a lighter sentence.

“We have worked cooperatively with the prosecutors and will continue to do so as we take full responsibility for our bad judgment,” they said in a statement.

Fellow actress Lori Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the sitcom Full House, and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are charged with paying US$500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither participated in the sport. They were not among those who agreed to plead guilty, and they have not publicly addressed the allegations.


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