Federal prosecutors charged 50 people on Tuesday in a $25 million scheme to help actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, CEOs and other wealthy Americans cheat their children's way into elite universities, including Yale and Stanford.
The largest college admissions fraud scam unearthed in United States history was run out of a small college preparation company in Newport Beach, California, that relied on bribes, phony test takers and even doctored photos depicting non-athletic applicants as elite competitors to land college slots for the offspring of rich parents, prosecutors said.
Coaches, including the women's soccer coach at Yale University and the sailing coach at Stanford University, took between $200,000 and $400,000 to accept the students onto their teams.
San Francisco resident Agustin Huneeus Jr., who owns vineyards in Napa, California, and elsewhere conspired to "bribe [senior athletic director Donna] Heinel and Jovan Vavic, the USC water polo coach, to facilitate his daughter's admission to USC as a purported water polo recruit", the complaint said.
According to prosecutors, a cooperating witness told Huffman he controlled a testing center and would arrange for a third party to proctor her daughter's SAT and secretly correct her answers afterward.
Huffman, Loughlin and dozens of wealthy executives and lawyers were charged with participating in a "large-scale, elaborate fraud" to create a "rigged system" at prominent colleges like Yale, USC, Stanford and UCLA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said.
A Justice Department official in Los Angeles said 13 of those indicted were taken into custody Tuesday morning; according to reports Huffman was among them.
William Rick Singer, a longtime college prep adviser, greased the wheels for his clients' children by arranging to either cheat on SAT or ACT tests or have the kid apply as a recruited athlete, Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling said.More news: Jussie Smollett Makes Court Appearance as Judge Allows Cameras for Next Hearing
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Loughlin's fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli was also on the list.
Calls with Huffman and a co-operating witness were recorded.
Prosecutors allege that other fake athletic profiles were also made to make students look like strong high school athletes when they actually weren't.
None of the students were charged and most remain at the universities, he said.
Singer stated that this was not a good idea because when he discussed the possibility of Isabella's admission with him a year he thought the family 'would be good for a million plus'.
The parents would plunk down between $15,000 and $75,000 per test, according to court papers.