Two Hollywood stars have been implicated in a massive cheating scandal.
Full House star Lori Loughlin and Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman are two of the 50 parents and coaches charged in a plot to get their children into schools including Georgetown, Stanford, UCLA, University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale.
The scheme was uncovered by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Boston, and involved parents paying bribes of up to $6 million to get their children into these elite schools.
In many instances, the children were unaware that their parents had paid these bribes, according to federal documents.
Most of those charged either paid to get higher SAT scores or faked an athletic resume that, with the participation of a bribed college coach, helped the children get accepted to a college as a team’s recruit.
Huffman has two daughters with husband William H. Macy including Sofia, who is 18, and 16-year old Georgia.
Loughlin and her designer husband Mossimo Giannulli also have two daughters: Olivia, 19, and Isabella, 20.
Macy was not charged but Giannulli was named alongside his wife in the papers.
Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli are all charged with Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud.
Big house: Full House star Lori Loughlin and Oscar nominee Felicity Huffman are two of the 50 parents charged in a plot to get their children into elite schools (Loughlin with daughters Olivia and Bella in February)
Desperate housewife: Huffman allegedly paid a $15,000 ‘charitable contribution’ ‘to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter’ (Huffman and Macy with their daughters Georgia and Sofia at the Golden Globes)
‘Beginning in or about 2011, and continuing through the present, the defendants – principally individuals whose high-school age children were applying to college – conspired with others to use bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission to colleges and universities in the District of Massachusetts and elsewhere, including Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, and the University of Southern California – Los Angeles,’ stated the 200 page document that was filed on Tuesday.
‘This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth, combined with fraud,’ US Attorney Andrew Lelling said on Tuesday in a press conference.
‘There can be no separate college admission for wealthy, and I will add there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.’
William Rick Singer, the founder of Key Worldwide Foundation, had been identified as the mastermind behind the scandal.
The documents claim that since 2011, Singer has received $25 million from parents which was then used to payoff or bribe individuals who could ‘designate their children as recruited athletes, or other favored admissions categories.’
Huffman paid a $15,000 ‘charitable contribution ‘to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter,’ states the complaint.
‘Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so,’ according to the documents.
The charging documents state that Huffman had the site where he daughter took the SATs moved from her own high school to a test center West Hollywood.
Her test was then administered by a proctor who had flown in from Tampa and told investigators that he ‘facilitated cheating, either by correcting the student’s answers after the test or by actively assisting the student during the exam.’
In this case, Huffman’s daughter scored a 1420, which was a 400 point improvement from her PSAT results just one year prior.
Soon after the proctor was paid $40,000 by Key Worldwide Foundation, the same organization that Huffman would later give a $15,000 donation to, according to the documents.
The documents also include the transcript of a phone call between Huffman and the individual who facilitated the test in which she admits that her older daughter had assistance and expresses her desire for her younger daughter to get similar help.
In a follow up call just this past December, Huffman and her unnamed spouse spoke about their daughter wanting to get into Georgetown.
It was then decided that the young girl would take the exam twice, one on her own and once with help, to ensure she got the score necessary to get her into Georgetown, it is claimed.
Then, at the last second, the couple decided not to have their daughter take the test with assistance.
Svengali: William Rick Singer (above), the founder of Key Worldwide Foundation, had been identified as the mastermind, and since 2011 has been paid $25M by parents according to filings
Caught in the act: Huffman and her spouse gave a $15,000 donation to the group that later paid the man who proctored the SAT to her daughter (above)
Plan: A recorded phone conversation makes it evident that Huffman is aware that her daughter will be assisted in the test (above)
Plan: In one call from last year, Huffman revealed she planned to use the same system for her younger daughter (above) after it worked for her older daughter
Loughlin and Giannulli ‘agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team – despite the fact that they did not participate in crew – thereby facilitating their admission to USC,’ according to the documents.
The couple emailed Singer in 2016 about their daughters college prospects, stating that they wanted to do the necessary work to see that the girls got into USC as opposed to ASU.
Emails obtained by investigators revealed that it was soon decided that bribes would be paid to have the girls recruited as crew coxswains.
A short time after that, photos were taken of older daughter Isabella on an ergometer.
Dr. Donna Heinel, the senior associate athletic director at USC, presented Isabella as a potential athletic recruit a month later and she was approved for conditional admission.
It was then asked that a check be sent to Heinle for $50,000 from Giannulli, who a short time later asked if he could mention the story to the athletic director at USC when the two men were at Augusta, likely playing at the famed golf club.
Singer stated that this was not a good idea because when he discussed the possibility of Isabella’s admission with him a year he though the family ‘would be good for a million plus.’
Isabella received her admission letter the following march, which was followed by another note requesting a donation of $200,000 to Key Worldwide Foundation.
After the amount was wired to the organization a note was returned that stated no good or services had bee exchanged for the money, which according to the documents is false.
This same exasct process was then repeated with the young daughter, Olivia.
Problems arose however when Olivia’s guidance counselor became curious as to how she managed to receive admission based on her involvement in crew since she did not row.
At the same time, Loughlin complained that her daughter was having difficulty filling out her other college applications, prompting Singer to ask an employee to take care of that task.
This was done so as not to draw attention to the fact that it was already confirmed that she had received conditional admission to the school.
Then, at some point, there was a very heated and public altercation between Giannulli and the counselor, which elicited an email from Dr Heinel asking that this not happen in the future so as to avoid detection.
This all began to fall apart in October 2018 when the IRS audited Key Worldwide and began to look into donations made by parents whose children were then admitted to USC.
The two were told by Singer to say they had given the money to help ‘underserved kids.’
Ali Khosroshahin, the former women’s soccer coach at USC, Laura Janke, the former assistant women’s soccer coach, and Jovan Vavic, the school’s current water polo coach are also charged in the case alongside Dr. Heinel.
‘We are aware of the ongoing wide-ranging criminal investigation involving universities nationwide, including USC. USC has not been accused of any wrongdoing and will continue to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation,’ said USC in a statement on Tuesday.
‘USC is in the process of identifying any funds received by the university in connection with this alleged scheme. Additionally, the university is reviewing its admissions processes broadly to ensure that such actions do not occur going forward.’
The ‘cheating’ referenced in the documents occurred in four forms.
‘Bribing college entrance exam administrators to allow a third party to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams, in some cases by posing as actual students,’ is the first.
PARENTS CHARGED IN OPERATION VARSITY BLUES
William Rick Singer, the ‘mastermind’
Gregory and Marcia Abbott
Diane and Todd Blake
I-Hsin “Joey” Chen
Amy and Gregory Colburn
Lori Loughlan and Mossimo Giannulli
Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez
Bruce and Davina Isackson
Peter Jan Sartorio
‘Bribing university athletic coaches and administrators to designate applicants as purported athletic recruits – regardless of their athletic abilities, and in some cases, even though they did not play the sport,’ is the second.
That is what the documents accuse Loughlin and her husband of doing with their daughters.
‘Having a third party take classes in place of the actual students, with the understanding that the grades earned in those classes would be submitted as part of the students’ application,’ is the third.
The fourth was ‘submitting falsified applications for admission to universities … that, among other things, included the fraudulently obtained exam scores and class grades, and often listed fake awards and athletic activities.’
Parties are accused of then ‘disguising the nature and source of the bribe payments by funneling the money through the accounts of a purported charity.’
That is what Huffman is accused of doing in the documents filed on Tuesday.
All with the help of Singer.
In his biography on the website for the Newport Beach-based Key Foundation, Singer is heralded his ability to get children into the college of their choice.
Singer is extolled for ‘helping students discover their life passion, and guiding them along with their families through the complex college admissions maze,’ in his bio.
‘Rick draws on his life experiences of being a father and college athletics coach. He has seen first hand the stress that the college admissions and athletics recruiting process can put on a family,’ it reads.
‘Over the years, Rick and his team of coaches have helped thousands of students fulfill their life passion in getting into the right college to achieve their dreams. Using The Key method, Key coaches help unlock the full potential of your son or daughter, and set them on a course to excel in life.’
That Key method largely involved donating money which was then used to bribe or payoff individuals per the documents released on Tuesday.
Singer would take the money donated or given by parents and use it to pay Igor Dvorsiky and Lisa ‘Niki’ Williams to administer the standardized tests to the children of those charged in the scheme.
Those two in turn would often pay Mark Riddell, a Florida man who would take the test for the students of change their answers according to the documents filed on Tuesday.
Others who are named in the documents include: Bill McGlashan, the millionaire investor and director at CAA who founded The Rise Fund alongside Bono; Douglas Hodge, the former chief executive officer of Pacific Investment Management Co.;
‘We believe everyone charged here today had a role in fostering a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for students trying to get into these schools the right way through hard work, good grades and community service,’ said said John Bonavolonta, the FBI Special Agent in Charge.