LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Actress Lori Loughlin surrendered to federal authorities this morning and was placed in custody pending a federal court appearance later in the day as a defendant, along with actress Felicity Huffman and dozens of others, in a wide-ranging bribery scheme designed to get the children of well-heeled parents into elite universities, including USC and UCLA.
Loughlin was taken into custody by the FBI, although no details of the arrest were immediately released. Huffman was arrested before dawn Tuesday morning by FBI agents with weapons drawn.
Also under arrest were several coaches at local universities in connection with the alleged $25 million scheme. Federal prosecutors said wealthy parents would pay thousands of dollars to get their children admitted to prestigious universities by passing them off as recruited athletes -- regardless of their athletic ability -- or by helping them cheat on college entrance exams.
A federal indictment unsealed in federal court in Boston Tuesday named 50 defendants from across the country.
Federal authorities identified William Rick Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, as the leader of the scheme. He pleaded guilty Tuesday in Boston federal court to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Huffman, who starred in the ABC show “Desperate Housewives,” made her initial federal court appearance Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles and was later released on a $250,000 bond -- signed in court by her husband, actor William H. Macy. The Academy Award nominee has been ordered to appear in federal court in Boston on March 29.
Loughlin, best known for her role in the sitcom “Full House,” and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, were also among those charged withnpaying bribes to help their children gain admission into top universities. Giannulli was arrested Tuesday morning, but Loughlin was not home at the time. Giannulli also appeared in court Tuesday and was freed on $1 million bail.
The alleged conspiracy led to arrests Tuesday by federal agents in multiple states. Athletic coaches from USC, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest and Georgetown, among others, were implicated, as well as parents and exam administrators.
There was no indication that the schools themselves were involved in the scheme.
Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to the Key Worldwide Foundation to aid her oldest daughter's university prospects. A confidential informant allegedly told investigators that he told Huffman he could arrange for a third party to correct her daughter's answers on the SAT after she took it. She ended up scoring 1420 -- 400 points higher than she had gotten on a PSAT taken a year earlier, The Washington Post reported.
Huffman also contemplated running a similar scam to help her younger daughter, but ultimately did not pursue it, the federal complaint alleges.
The U.S. Attorney's Office alleges that Loughlin's daughters were recruited by USC's crew team, despite the fact they had no experience in crew. Federal prosecutors said that in some cases, the ruse over fake athletic recruiting included the use of staged or faked photos of the students posing with athletic equipment or appearing to compete in sports they did not actually play.
Loughlin, 54, and Huffman, 56, are both charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
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