Parents, coaches, actresses among 50 charged in U.S. college cheating scandal

Actress Felicity Huffman attends the premiere of the "Krystal" in Hollywood on April 4, 2018. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

March 12 (UPI) — Federal authorities have charged 50 people — including two Hollywood actresses — a former soccer coach and a California businessman, in the largest college admission scam ever prosecuted by the Justice Department, involving millions of dollars, an indictment unsealed Tuesday said.

Court documents showed actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among those indicted. Huffman is perhaps best known for her role in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and Loughlin ABC’s “Full House” in the late 1980s and the more recent “Fuller House.”

The indictment unsealed in Boston says 33 wealthy parents, including the two actresses, bribed college entrance exam administrators to get their children into Ivy-league and other high-profile schools. The accusations say some of the efforts attempted to get athletic scholarships and others paid for high test scores.

Some of the schools targeted in the entrance scheme are Yale, Georgetown, the University of Southern California, Stanford, UCLA and the University of Texas. None of the schools, however, are accused of complicity in the case.

Loughlin and Huffman were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud.

Among those charged are three scam organizers, two exam administrators, one college administrator and wealthy parents who “paid enormous sums to guarantee their children’s admission to certain schools through the use of bribes and fake academic and athletic credentials,” U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling told reporters Tuesday.

The indicted also included “nine coaches at elite schools” who “pretend(ed) that certain applicants were recruited, competitive athletes, when in fact, the applicants were not,” Lelling said.

From 2011 to 2018, Lelling said wealthy parents made about $25 million in payments to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools, and FBI agents wiretapped phone calls involving some of the parents and a cooperating witness.

A former Yale University women’s soccer coach, Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith of Madison, Conn. is charged in the case with two counts of wire fraud. The indictment said Meredith conspired with California businessman William Rick Singer, the owner of a for-profit college entrance company. Then, Singer paid Mark Riddell, another defendant, to bribe the two exam administrators, prosecutors said.

Wealthy parents paid Singer up to $75,000 for “someone to take the test for their child or correct the exam afterward,” Lelling said.

Singer was scheduled to plead guilty Tuesday afternoon to charges of racketeering, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.

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