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College admissions scheme: How Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin allegedly participated

Actresses indicted in admissions scandal
Dozens charged in college admissions bribery scandal 03:50

Prosecutors alleged Tuesday dozens of parents, test administrators and college coaches who were involved in a widespread effort to rig college admissions processes were actually conducting two different types of schemes — a standardized cheating operation and a college acceptance scam. The allegations against actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman provide insights into how these two alleged schemes worked.

Huffman was taken into custody early Tuesday morning. A Los Angeles judge said Tuesday afternoon she could be released on $250,000 bond. Her husband, William H. Macy, was seen going to the courtroom ahead of the hearing.

Entrance exam scheme

Prosecutors said Huffman, who is married to actor William H. Macy, agreed to pay $15,000 — disguised as a tax-deductible charitable contribution — to a foundation operated by William Singer, who in turn allegedly arranged for a particular proctor to ensure Huffman's daughter scored well. Macy is not named in the indictment, but he is repeatedly referred to as Huffman's "spouse." 

Prosecutors said that in December 2017 a confidential witness told investigators that he met with Huffman and her spouse in their Los Angeles home in order to explain "how the college entrance exam scheme worked."

He said he "controlled" an SAT testing site and could have a proctor "secretly correct her answers" after she took the test. Prosecutors said the parents agreed to the plan. He also explained how their daughter could receive extra time for the test. Prosecutors said at a press conference Tuesday this was typically achieved by claiming a learning disability.

At one point, prosecutors said Huffman emailed the confidential witness to say a school official expected to administer her daughter's extended test.

"Ruh Ro! Looks like [my daughter's high school] wants to provide own proctor," Huffman allegedly wrote. 

"In subsequent e-mails, (they) agreed to tell the high school counselor that Huffman's daughter would take the SAT at a different location (during a weekend) so that she would not miss any school," prosecutors wrote.

"Ultimately, Huffman's daughter received a score of 1420 on the SAT, an improvement of approximately 400 points over her PSAT," prosecutors wrote.

In a subsequent conversation, Huffman and her spouse were allegedly recorded being offered a similar arrangement for their younger daughter. But this time they declined, prosecutors wrote.

Admissions rigging

"Full House" star Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 as part of a bribery plot to help their daughters gain admittance to the University of Southern California.

"In an e-mail on or about July 24, 2016, (a confidential witness) advised Giannulli that his older daughter's academic qualifications were at or just below the 'low end' of USC's admission standards. Thereafter, the Giannullis use bribes to facilitate her admission to USC as a recruited crew coxswain, even though she did not row competitively or otherwise participate in crew," prosecutors wrote in the indictment.

Prosecutors said the Giannullis then paid $50,000 to a USC athletics administrator, Donna Heinel, who presented their daughter "to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported crew recruit." Heinel was also charged Tuesday with conspiracy to commit racketeering.

Later payments by the pair included a tax-deductible $200,000 contribution to Singer's foundation. 

The pair allegedly arranged a similar scheme for their younger daughter. For that set of admissions, prosecutors describe in greater detail what was required to portray the girl as a crew coxswain.

"On or about July 16, 2017, (the confidential witness) e-mailed the Giannulis requesting information for the crew profile. The confidential witness indicated that the profile would present their younger daughter, falsely, as a crew coxswain for the L.A. Marina Club team, and requested that the Giannulis send an 'Action Picture.'"

Twelve days later, the parents allegedly sent a picture of the girl purporting to use a rowing machine.

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a press conference Tuesday that in other instances students' faces were edited into photos of athletes.

Once again, prosecutors said, the duo paid $50,000 to the USC administrator, and $200,000 as a donation to Singer's foundation. The girl was then accepted to USC.

But prosecutors said the scheme wasn't without its hitches. They describe a high school guidance counselor who was concerned about the girls' athletic admissions. He apparently approached an official at USC to express his concern, but was assured the girls were qualified for the crew team. Heinel allegedly then emailed the parents and advised them not to confront the counselor.

Heinel and Huffman were arrested Tuesday morning and were expected to be charged Tuesday afternoon. Loughlin and Giannuli had not yet been arrested as of early Tuesday afternoon.  

Singer entered a guilty plea in Boston federal court Tuesday to charges that included racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

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