Golden Globe-winning actress arrested at gunpoint

"Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman (L) and fellow Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin are among 50 people indicted in a nationwide university admissions scam, court records showed. AFP/File/LISA O'CONNOR, Tommaso Boddi

Actress Felicity Huffman and her husband William H. Macy are among those indicted in a college entrance fraud case in the US.

Award-winning actress Felicity Huffman was arrested in the early hours of Tuesday morning at gunpoint by federal marshalls investigating more than 50 people who have been accused of paying bribes to get their children into America’s top colleges.

Huffman allegedly paid $15,000 (R215 000), which she disguised as a charitable donation, to arrange for someone to change her daughter’s answers during the SAT exams, which are integral to admission in the Ivy League colleges.

Charging documents state that both Huffman and her husband, actor William H Macy, agreed to the plan to help daughters Sofia, 18, and 16-year-old Georgia, but Macy has not been charged.

The charging documents state that Huffman had the site where her daughter took the SATs moved from her own high school to a test centre in 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 1420 out of 1600 in December 2017, which was a 400 point improvement from her PSAT results just one year prior.

Other parents from a variety of backgrounds in business, politics, sport, and entertainment all paid varying amounts to fraudulently alter their children’s admissions stats. Most of those charged either paid to get higher SAT scores, 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 or altered their race to be accepted under minority empowerment schemes.

The network of fraud was uncovered by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Boston, who discovered that dozens of parents had paid a total of $6 million (R87 million) in bribes to get their children into elite schools including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, and UCLA, by bribing various officials from SAT testers to sports coaches and admissions staff.

Federal prosecutors in Boston charged William “Rick” Singer, 58, with running the alleged scheme through his company Edge College & Career Network. Singer pleaded guilty on Tuesday in Boston federal court to charges including racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice. He could see a maximum of 65 years in prison and over $1 million (R14.3 million) in fines.

The actress Lori Loughlin, best known for starring in the US sitcom Full House, was among those indicted. She has not yet been taken into custody.

Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli – who was also indicted – “agreed to pay bribes totalling $500,000 (R7.2 million) in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits” to the University of Southern California (USC) rowing team, the documents said. Both their daughters are currently studying at USC.

In all, 33 parents have thus far been charged as well as 13 athletics coaches and associates of Singer’s business.

(Compiled by Warren Robertson)

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