BOSTON – 50 people, including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged Tuesday in a scheme where wealthy parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to help their children get into some of the most elite schools in the county, prosecutors said.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the $25 million federal bribery case.
At least nine coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance, fashion, and other fields, were among those charged.
The racketeering conspiracy charges were brought against several athletic coaches at schools including Wake Forest, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles.
A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.
The central figure in the scheme was identified as admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer, founder of the Edge College & Career Network of Newport Beach, California. He pleaded guilty Tuesday along with Stanford’s John Vandemoer.
Prosecutors said that parents paid Singer big money from 2011 through last month to bribe coaches and administrators to falsely make their children look like star athletes to boost their chances of getting into college. The consultant also hired ringers to take college entrance exams for students and paid off insiders at testing centers to correct students’ answers.
Lelling said it was the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected,” Lelling said.
Loughlin played in the ABC sitcom “Full House,” and Huffman stared in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” Both women were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
Court documents said Huffman paid $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation, so her daughter could participate in the college entrance cheating scam.
Representatives for Huffman and Loughlin did not immediately return messages seeking comment.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)