US actress Loughlin in custody over college bribery charges

BBC

14th March, 2019 02:18:52 printer

US actress Loughlin in custody over college bribery charges

US actress Lori Loughlin, of the sitcom Full House, has surrendered to authorities in Los Angeles after being charged in a college cheating scam.

 

Her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared in court on Tuesday, as did Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman.

 

They are among the 50 people charged in an alleged criminal enterprise to get their children into top US colleges.

 

Yale, Stanford and Georgetown were among the universities targeted.

 

The colleges have not been accused of any wrongdoing and are investigating the matter internally.

 

The accused parents - many of whom are celebrities or CEOs of major companies - allegedly paid a firm up to $6.5m (£4.9m) to cheat on students' college entrance exams or bribe top coaches to offer fake athletic scholarships for non-athletic students.

 

Authorities say Loughlin and her husband paid $500,000 in bribes to have their two daughters admitted into the University of Southern California (USC) as fake rowing-team recruits.

 

She has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

 

Giannulli faced the same charges on Tuesday and was forced to put the family's house up as collateral to pay his $1m bond.

 

Both their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella, are currently studying at USC and were admitted as rowing-team recruits - but neither actually participates in the sport. The sisters have not been charged.

 

According to an FBI statement, Loughlin was arrested on Wednesday morning in Los Angeles after returning from Vancouver where she reportedly had been filming, and will appear in a federal court at 14:00 local time (21:00 GMT).

 

Fellow celebrity Huffman - who allegedly paid $15,000 to participate in an exam cheating scam - was taken into FBI custody on Tuesday as well, and made to surrender her passport in court.

 

The Academy Award nominee was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She was released on $250,000 bail.

 

Her husband, actor William H Macy, accompanied her to court but has not been indicted in the investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.

 

He was allegedly recorded discussing the plot, but Huffman was the one who reportedly sent the emails organising the exam scheme for her eldest daughter.

 

The ringleader, William "Rick" Singer, 58, is co-operating with the authorities.

 

Singer pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Boston federal court to charges including racketeering, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

 

Authorities say the scam earned him $25m between 2011-18 through his firm Edge College & Career Network,

 

At his sentencing in June, Singer could receive a maximum of 65 years in prison and have to pay more than $1m in fines.

 

In all, 33 parents were charged on Tuesday as well as 13 athletics coaches and associates of Singer's business.

 

One student apparently gloated about the exam cheating scam.

 

Her parents are accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to arrange her admittance into Georgetown by bribing the tennis coach and cheating on tests.

 

The scandal has also rekindled scrutiny over how Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump's son-in-law, got into Harvard.

 

Kushner's father reportedly pledged $2.5m to the Ivy league college just before he was accepted.

 

The children of wealthy Americans often win places in elite universities after their parents make generous donations, an entirely legal state of affairs.


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