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Famous Parents, Coaches Charged in ‘Largest’ College Admission Scam

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Famous Hollywood parents, college coaches, test proctors, and a college administrator are among 50 people indicted in what prosecutors are calling the “largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”

By: Kathleen Struck

Students were admitted into highly competitive elite schools — after their parents allegedly paid William Rick Singer to arrange fake tests, fake credentials and fake athletic accomplishments, the Justice Department announced in a press conference and court documents unsealed Tuesday.

The indicted, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, are charged with allegedly paying counselors and other hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure their children were admitted to prestigious U.S. colleges — such as Yale, Stanford and Georgetown universities — without having the credentials, skills or required abilities.

“We’re not talking about donating a building so a school is more likely to take your daughter or son,” explained U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. “We’re talking … bribed college officials.”

The charges range from racketeering, conspiracy, fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice.

One charge involved the head coach of women’s soccer at Yale, whom DOJ alleges accepted $400,000 to ensure a student was admitted. Later, Singer received $1.2 million from the student’s parents for securing that admission. In some cases, Lelling said, Singer worked with the parents “to fabricate impressive athletic profiles for their kids,” including fake participation in elite club teams.

Parents staged photos of their children engaged in popular sports, Lelling described, including photoshopping the face of their child into the face of an actual athlete, and then submitting it in support of the child’s application.

“They flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense, so they could set their children up for success,” described Joseph Bonavolonta of the FBI’s Boston field office.

Hollywood actors Huffman and Loughlin were indicted in what prosecutors are calling “Operation Varsity Blues” for allegedly paying to have their daughters admitted to elite universities.

Loughlin appeared in the ABC sitcom Full House, and Huffman starred in ABC’s Desperate Housewives.

Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Giannulli, a YouTube star who goes by the name Olivia Jade, recently garnered attention for statements she made about her efforts at the University of Southern California.

“I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend,” she shared with her nearly 2 million subscribers, after explaining her extensive work schedule. “But I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of like game days, partying…I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”

On Wednesday it was reported that colleges and companies moved swiftly to distance themselves from employees swept up in the nationwide college admissions scheme.

Parents charged included people prominent in law, finance, fashion, manufacturing and other fields — people who could afford the steep price.

At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents were among those charged. Some parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, as much as $6.5 million, to guarantee their children’s admission, officials said.

“Every student deserves to be considered on their individual merits when applying to college, and it’s disgraceful to see anyone breaking the law to give their children an advantage over others,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement Wednesday. “The department is looking closely at this issue and working to determine if any of our regulations have been violated.”

At a brief court appearance Wednesday, a judge allowed Lori Loughlin to be released on $1 million bond and travel to the area around Vancouver, Canada, to work but otherwise imposed strict travel restrictions. Magistrate Judge Steven Kim said Loughlin must surrender her passport in December, inform the court of her travel plans and provide evidence of where she’s been if asked, according to an AP report.

Loughlin’s lawyer Perry Viscounty declined comment outside the courtroom, where a day earlier her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was freed on similar terms.

Even though prosecutors had agreed to it, Magistrate Judge Steve Kim at first said he was “not comfortable” with letting Laughlin keep her passport and travel to Canada, but relented after peppering Viscounty with questions about the projects and signed off on the deal. (VOA)

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