Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of paying thousands of dollars to bribe college officials in exchange for getting their children admitted into elite colleges.
The pair, along with Loughlin’s designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and several other defendants in the cheating scandal, dubbed “Varsity Blues” by prosecutors, made brief initial appearances before Judge M. Page Kelley in U.S. District Court in Boston earlier today.
Huffman, dressed in a dark pant suit and blue shirt, and Loughlin, wearing a brown pantsuit and deep yellow shirt, left court in rented black Suburban SUVs without making comment. Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was conspicuously absent and did not accompany her to court.
A crowd of about 30 fans, cell phone cameras in hand, erupted in cheers as Loughlin, who starred in the television show “Full House,” which ran in the 1980s and 1990s, and her husband were escorted by police officers and security guards to a waiting SUV. Fans surrounded the car, snapping photos, as the celebrity couple was hustled inside.
Loughlin and her husband are accused of paying $500,000 to bribe a University of Southern California official to get their children into college. The “Desperate Housewives” star is accused of paying $15,000 to a California man to change her daughter’s SAT score.
All three opted to waive a pretrial hearing when asked by Judge Kelley if they would appear in court to answer the charges. Kelley also barred them from traveling internationally, possessing guns and contacting the victims and witnesses.
They were also required to surrender their passports to the court. The judge did allow them to discuss the case with their children but cautioned them to be careful with what they say least they be charged with obstructing justice. They were also instructed not to violate local, state or federal laws and barred from smoking marijuana, which is legal in California but illegal under federal law.
Also implicated in the scheme was William E. McGlashan Jr., a partner at the private equity firm TPG and Michelle Janavs, heiress to the Hot Pockets fortune along with several top athletic coaches who accepted millions of dollars in bribes to help some undeserving students gain college admission by listing them as athletic recruits even though they were not athletes.
The man at the center of this scandal is 58-year-old William Singer, of Newport Beach, Calif., the founder of a college preparatory business called the Edge College & Career Network. Prosecutors said Singer used that business to help students cheat on their standardized tests and paid millions of dollars in bribes to the coaches who could get them into college with fake athletic credentials.
The company allowed parents to funnel about $25 million into an account without paying federal taxes. The money was then used to bribe coaches and university officials, prosecutors said.
Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice in March. He is now a cooperating witness in the case. Prosecutors said he also admitted tipping off several families that he was wearing a wire and warned them not to say anything incriminating after he was told by prosecutors and the FBI that he could not speak about the case.