Actresses, CEOs among 50 people arrested in nationwide college admissions cheating scam

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LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 21: Actor Felicity Huffman onstage during the 24th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 21, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Actresses and chief executives are among 50 people arrested in a nationwide college admissions cheating scam, according to court records unsealed in Boston Tuesday obtained by ABC News

Some of the high-profile celebrities named in the criminal complaint are Lori Loughlin of Full House, Felicity Huffman of Desperate Housewives, Toby MacFarlane, and Mossimo Giannulli, among others.

University athletic coaches and administrators of college entrance exams were also among those arrested.

Those indicted allegedly paid bribes of up to $6 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.

The alleged scam centered around a man in California who ran a business helping students get into the college of their choice. 

Authorities say parents would pay him a predetermined amount, with full knowledge of what they were doing. He would then steer the money to one of two places: either an SAT or ACT administrator, or a college athletic coach. 

The coaches would allegedly arrange a fake profile that listed the prospective student as an athlete, and exam administrators would either hire proctors to take the test or correct the answers of a student. 

“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,” the indictment said.

Those named in the criminal complaint were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

The documents say actress Lori Loughlin — best known for her role as Aunt Becky on the ABC sitcom “Full House” — and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo 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.”

Federal agents obtained emails from Loughlin implicating her in the scam, according to the documents.

Documents say Huffman and her husband, William H. Macy, “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000…to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter. Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so.” 

Macy was involved but does not appear to have been charged. 

In most cases the students did not know their admission was contingent on a bribe, officials said.

The universities themselves were unaware of the scheme, according to court documents, 

This is a developing story.

NewsChannel 9 and LocalSYR.com will have updates as they become available. 

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