Dear Commons Community,
Fifty people including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were arrested and charged in a nationwide college admissions cheating scam, according to court records unsealed in Boston this morning.
In a press conference announcing the mail fraud charges, officials shed light on the so-called “Operation Varsity Blues,” which investigated California businessman William Singer, who ran what they described as “the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.” Officials said that they suspect more are involved in the alleged scheme.
Among those indicted in the case include three people who organized the alleged scheme, two administrators, one proctor, one college administrator, nine athletic coaches at elite schools and 33 parents who payed “enormous sums to guarantee their children’s admissions to schools” like Yale, Stanford, the University of Southern California and Georgetown.
According to the charges, the bribes ranged from several thousand dollars to $6.5 million, resulting in roughly $25 million being paid to Singer between 2011 and 2018.
Officials said that Singer and Stanford’s sailing coach John Vandemoer, are expected to plead guilty to the charges. Us Weekly reported that Huffman was in custody and that an arrest warrant had been issued for Loughlin, though she is “out of the country.” Her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, was arrested, too.
Authorities reportedly uncovered the scheme after discovering last May that Singer had been helping parents get their children into their top-choice universities. Parents would allegedly pay the man to get an SAT or ACT administrator of a college athletic coach to help their children get into the schools. They would reportedly pay Singer through a bogus charity organization that he set up to funnel the payments through.
Test administrators would reportedly hire proctors to take the test on behalf of the student or correct their answers. Coaches would allegedly arrange fake profiles pretending that the students were athletes, oftentimes using stock photos of athletes and Photoshopping the students’ faces onto the bodies in the photos.
In most cases, the parents knew exactly what was going on, prosecutors said, while most of the students didn’t know that their parents were issuing bribes on their behalves.
Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, reportedly “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.”
Loughlin’s daughters, Isabella Rose, 20, and Olivia Jade, 19, are currently enrolled at USC.
Meanwhile, Huffman allegedly “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.”
“Ultimately, Huffman’s daughter received a score of 1420 in the SAT, an improvement of approximately 400 points over her PSAT,” the report added.
This is just another mark against our college admissions systems or as Frank Bruni said this morning: “What else is new?”