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Everything you need to know about the nation's largest-ever college cheating scandal involving Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin  1 Week ago

Source:   USA Today  

The Justice Department recently charged 50 people, including celebrity actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, wealthy CEOs and college athletic coaches, in what is being dubbed the nation's largest college admissions cheating scandal.

Here's everything you need to know about how the elaborate conspiracy operated, who was allegedly involved and what's next:

In a 204-page affidavit, prosecutors say 33 wealthy parents paid a middleman, William "Rick" Singer, who operated a sham college counseling group called The Key, more than $25 million collectively since 2011. Payments given were to get their under-qualified children into some of the nation's top colleges through fraudulent methods: cheating on tests or fabricating their athletic credentials with help from college coaches.

Others charged in the conspiracy include three people who organized the scams, two ACT and SAT exam administrators, one exam proctor, and one college administrator. 

Parents are accused of paying Singer anywhere from $100,000 to $6.5 million – most between $250,000 and $400,000 per student. It was in exchange for Singer providing what he called a "side door" into elite colleges and universities. 

Some parents paid Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 to have someone either take the ACT or SAT for their child, or to correct their child's answers afterward to boost scores.

Others paid Singer to bribe coaches who agreed to pretend that their children were highly sought athletes in the sports they coached. That child would then fill one of the team's roster slots even if they didn't play the sport.

Singer worked with parents to fabricate athletic profiles for their children that boasted fake credentials, honors and participation in elite club teams. 

Sometimes it involved staged shots, prosecutors say, or even doctored photos where a student's face would be posted onto a stock image of an athlete pulled from the internet.

A federal judge in California released actress Felicity Huffman on $250,000 bail but restricted her travel to the continental U.S. after the star appeared in court Tuesday.

Huffman, best known for her role on TV's "Desperate Housewives," is accused of paying $15,000 to Singer's sham organization that then helped her daughter cheat on the SATs. Huffman also discussed the scheme in a recorded phone call with a cooperating witness, according to the investigation. Her actor husband, William H. Macy, is not a defendant in the case.

Loughlin, who starred in the 1990s sitcom "Full House," on Wednesday appeared in federal court in Los Angeles and was released on a $1 million bail. 

She will be able to travel within the continental U.S. and British Columbia, the judge said. Loughlin is currently filming a project in Vancouver and has projects planned through the summer, according to her lawyer Mark Harris, who appeared in court with her. 

Prosecutors say Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, another defendant, paid bribes of $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as crew team recruits at the University of Southern California even though neither participated in the sport.

Loughlin's daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli has gotten torched on social media after the charges were brought against her parents. 

Her Instagram comments were flooded with critics who slammed her enrollment at the University of Southern California.

"You didn’t earn your success. You stole it from someone more hardworking and deserving than you," user @saramikaila commented on a picture of Olivia Jade, 19, lounging with friends.

Parents accused of taking part in the scheme include: Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Connecticut, a co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York; Jane Buckingham, CEO of a boutique marketing company in Los Angeles; Gregory Abbott of New York, founder and chairman of a packaging company; and Manuel Henriquez, CEO of a finance company based in Palo Alto, California. 

Abbott, Caplan, Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez were each released on $500,000 bail in Manhattan federal court. 

Prosecutors say some parents took part in the scheme without the knowledge of their children. Other children did know, prosecutors say, but no charges have been brought against any of the students. 

The schools with coaches that allegedly participated in the scheme include Yale, Georgetown and Stanford universities, the University of Southern California, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Texas and Wake Forest University. They are not targets of the sweeping investigation.

Multiple college coaches have been fired or suspended since the Justice Department laid out its case, and several schools have opened their own internal investigations. 

That includes Southern Cal, which fired senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and legendary water polo coach Jovan Vavic, both whom were charged in the scheme. Former Southern Cal assistant women’s soccer coach Laura Janke and the school's former head women's soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin were also charged. 

Wake Forest University suspended head volleyball coach Bill Ferguson, who was accused of accepting $100,000 to recruit a student who had been on the school's wait list.

The FBI's investigation started in May when FBI investigators found evidence of a “large-scale elaborate fraud” while working an unrelated undercover case.

The code name "Operation Varsity Blues" is from a 1999 move starring James Van Der Beek about a high school football team in Texas.

Prosecutors say the case is still ongoing and that additional people could be charged with crimes including more parents.

The bribery investigation has rekindled discussion on how President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, got into Harvard.

Kusher, who serves as a top aide to Trump, is not involved in the cheating case itself. But Kushner and his acceptance to the Ivy League school was investigated as part of the 2006 book "The Price of Admission" written by ProPublica editor Daniel Golden. 

The book examined how the nation's wealthy buy their children into prestigious schools with tax write-offs and other donations. Kushner's father, real estate developer Charles Kushner, donated $2.5 million to the university in 1998, shortly before Jared Kushner was admitted. 

 

 

 

 

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