FILE PHOTO: Actor Lori Loughlin, and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, leave the federal courthouse after facing charges in a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., April 3, 2019. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo
April 9, 2019
BOSTON (Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors filed fresh conspiracy and money laundering charges on Tuesday against 16 parents charged with paying bribes to secure their children seats in elite universities in the largest college admissions scam uncovered in U.S. history.
Parents including “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli had already been charged with racketeering conspiracy for their alleged role in the scheme, in which parents paid some $25 million in bribes to secure their offspring places at universities including Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
Fourteen parents, including “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, on Monday pleaded guilty to taking part in the scam, masterminded by California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer.
Singer last month pleaded guilty to facilitating the cheating scam and bribing coaches to present the parents’ children as fake athletic recruits.
Prosecutors have not yet charged any applicants and said that in some cases the parents involved took steps to try to prevent their children from realizing they were benefiting from fraud.
Colleges have begun revoking the admissions and pursuing expulsion of students who obtained their seats as a result of the fraud.
(Reporting by Scott Malone, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)
Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin appeared in federal court Wednesday alongside other wealthy parents to face charges they rigged test scores or paid bribes to cheat the admissions process at prestigious universities.
The actresses and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, said little during the brief hearing in a packed Boston courtroom and were not asked to enter a plea. They are all free on bail.
Their appearance comes three weeks after they were among dozens of prominent parents and college sports coaches arrested in the sweeping admissions scandal that has sparked outrage and inflamed concerns that the admissions process favors the wealthy.
The scam involved bogus entrance exam scores and doctored photos to make applicants look like star athletes to get them into sought-after schools such as Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
Authorities stumbled upon the wide-ranging scam thanks to a tip from a Los Angeles executive who was ensnared in a stock manipulation probe. The investigation, which authorities are called Operation Varsity Blues, led to the biggest college admissions scheme ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department, officials say.
Loughlin, who is best known for playing Aunt Becky on the sitcom “Full House,” and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters admitted as recruits to the USC crew team, even though neither is a rower.
Authorities say the couple helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by having them pose for photos on rowing machines. At one point, a guidance counselor at the girls’ high school became concerned their applications were fraudulent, but was ultimately convinced otherwise, court records show.
The Hallmark Channel — where Loughlin starred in popular holiday movies and the series “When Calls the Heart” — cut ties with Loughlin a day after her arrest.
Huffman is charged with paying the admissions consultant at the center of the scheme $15,000 to have a proctor cheat on her daughter’s SAT exam. Authorities say the “Desperate Housewives” star also discussed going through with the same plan for her younger daughter, but she ultimately decided not to.
Authorities say the consultant, Rick Singer, met with Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained to them that he “controlled” a testing center and could have somebody secretly change their daughter’s answers, authorities say. Huffman and Macy agreed to the plan, Singer told investigators.
Macy was not charged; authorities have not said why.
Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli have not publicly addressed the allegations.
They and the other parents are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, which carries up to 20 years in behind bars. But first-time offenders typically get only a fraction of that, and experts said they believe some parents may avoid prison time if they quickly agree to plead guilty.
Other parents charged in the scheme include the former co-chairman of an international law firm and the former head of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.
Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Connecticut, who was co-chairman at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, is accused of paying $75,000 to get a test supervisor to correct the answers on his daughter’s ACT exam after she took it. Caplan’s firm said after his arrest that he has been placed on a leave of absence.
Manuel Henriquez, who was CEO and chairman of Hercules Capital in Palo Alto, California, and his wife, Elizabeth Henriquez, participated in the cheating scheme and bribed the tennis coach at Georgetown to get their daughter admitted as a recruit, authorities say.
The tennis coach, Gordon Ernst, has pleaded not guilty to accepting $2.7 million in bribes to designate at least 12 applicants as recruits to Georgetown. Former UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, Wake Forest University women’s volleyball coach William Ferguson and former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic have also pleaded not guilty in the scheme.
Three people have pleaded guilty in the scheme, including Singer, who began cooperating last year with investigators. The former head women’s soccer coach at Yale, Rudy Meredith, has also pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.
Meredith inadvertently helped investigators uncover the sprawling scheme by dropping Singer’s name during a recorded conversation he had last year with a father who he had solicited a $450,000 bribe from. The father was under investigation in Boston for securities fraud when he told authorities that Meredith had promised to get his daughter into the school in exchange for cash.
Source: NewsMax America
FILE PHOTO: Actor Felicity Huffman departs an initial hearing for defendants in a racketeering case involving the allegedly fraudulent admission of children to elite universities, at the U.S. federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake
April 3, 2019
By Nate Raymond
BOSTON (Reuters) – Actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among 15 wealthy parents due in Boston federal court on Wednesday to face charges that they participated in what prosecutors call the largest college admissions scam uncovered in U.S. history.
They are among 50 people federal prosecutors allege participated in schemes that involved cheating on college exams and paying $25 million in bribes to buy the children of affluent Americans seats in well-known universities including Yale, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
The scam’s mastermind, California college admissions consultant Rick Singer, has pleaded guilty to overseeing a racketeering scheme in which parents paid to help their children cheat on admissions tests and bribe coaches to present them as elite prospects in sports including sailing, crew and water polo even if they had no athletic experience.
“Desperate Housewives” star Huffman and “Full House” actor Loughlin, along with a former chief executive and a major law firm’s onetime chairman, are part of the group scheduled to make their first appearances in Boston court.
Prosecutors allege that Loughlin and her husband, Los Angeles fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to pay $500,000 to have their two daughters named as recruits to USC’s crew team, even though they did not row competitively.
Prosecutors said Huffman, who is married to the actor William H. Macy, made a $15,000 contribution to Singer’s foundation in exchange for having an associate of Singer’s in 2017 secretly correct her daughter’s answers on an SAT college entrance exam at a test center Singer “controlled.”
Huffman later made arrangements to engage in the scheme again on her younger daughter’s behalf before deciding not to, prosecutors said.
Other accused parents expected to appear in court include Manuel Henriquez, the former chief executive of specialty finance company Hercules Capital Inc, and Gordon Caplan, the former co-chairman of the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher.
Henriquez resigned his position and Caplan was placed on leave after they were charged.
The U.S. Education Department has opened an investigation into eight universities linked to the scandal. Several of the schools have said they would revoke admissions offers to students who had gotten in fraudulently but not yet enrolled and would consider expelling students whose parents participated.
Prosecutors have not yet charged any applicants for illegal activity and said that in some cases the parents charged took steps to try to prevent their children from realizing they were benefiting from fraud.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; editing by Scott Malone and Susan Thomas)
Former coaches from the University of Southern California and Georgetown University are among a dozen people due in court on Monday to face charges that they participated in the largest college admissions fraud scheme uncovered in U.S. history.
The 12 people are expected to plead not guilty to charges that they took part in a $25 million racketeering conspiracy in which wealthy parents paid for help cheating on admissions exams and to bribe coaches who secured spots for their children in elite universities as fake athletic prospects.
Federal prosecutors in Boston this month charged some 50 people, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and top corporate executives, with paying into a scheme that ran for eight years and bought admission to difficult to get into universities such as Yale, USC and Georgetown.
The defendants due in Boston federal court on Monday include Gordon Ernst, Georgetown's former head tennis coach; Jorge Salcedo, the former men's soccer head coach at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and Donna Heinel, who was fired from her post as associate athletic director at the University of Southern California once the fraud was disclosed.
Their lawyers either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, led to the scheme's accused mastermind, William "Rick" Singer, pleading guilty to running the fraud through his California-based college admissions counseling service The Key.
He called the scam a "side door" way of gaining admission and used it on behalf of clients including Douglas Hodge, the former chief executive of asset manager Pimco, and "Full House" actress Loughlin, who prosecutors say paid bribes to have their children admitted to USC.
Prosecutors said Singer paid Ernst $2.7 million in bribes, which Ernst used to buy a house on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, in exchange for helping students get preferential admission to Georgetown as "bought-and-paid-for" tennis recruits.
The charges have illustrated the power that coaches of even lower-profile college sports have to influence admissions decisions.
Prosecutors said Singer also bribed administrators of the SAT and ACT college admissions exams to allow an associate to help students with their answers or correct their answers.
Those administrators were Igor Dvorskiy, the director of a private elementary and high school in Los Angeles, and Niki Williams, an assistant teacher at a Houston high school. Both are scheduled to be arraigned on Monday.
Source: NewsMax America
A plaque is pictured at University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni
March 15, 2019
By Ross Kerber
BOSTON (Reuters) – The temporarily ousted chief executive of Advantage Lithium Corp pleaded not guilty on Friday to charges of participating in the largest college-admissions fraud scheme in U.S. history.
David Sidoo became the first of the 33 parents charged in the scam to plead not guilty. Prosecutors said he paid $200,000 to the scheme’s accused mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, to arrange for people to take the SAT admissions test for his two sons.
Some 50 people including prominent executives, Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and college coaches have been charged in the scheme. Prosecutors say Singer made some $25 million over eight years by bribing coaches and arranging for phony test-takers to secure clients’ children spots at elite universities including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford.
Sidoo, who was temporarily replaced as CEO by Advantage Lithium’s board of directors on Thursday, declined to speak to a reporter as he entered the courtroom in Boston federal court.
Singer on Tuesday pleaded guilty to masterminding the scheme, which highlighted the lengths that wealthy and powerful Americans would go to cheat the high-stakes and high-pressure college admissions system.
One of the schools involved, the University of Southern California, already has rescinded admissions offers to six students involved in the scheme and said it will review what actions to take against students already admitted who took part.
Advantage Lithium is in the process of developing a potential Argentine lithium mine. Lithium is a key ingredient in batteries for electric cars.
Others prominent executives accused in the scheme include Douglas Hodge, former executive of investment firm PIMCO; Manuel Henriquez, who resigned as CEO of specialty finance company Hercules Capital Inc; Gordon Caplan, who has been placed on leave from his post as co-chairman of the global law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher; and TPG Capital private equity partner William McGlashan Jr., who was fired by the firm on Thursday.
Loughlin was dropped by the company that owns the Hallmark cable channel and LVMH’s Sephora beauty chain ended a sponsorship deal with her daughter, Olivia, as a result of the charge. Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, also has been charged.
Both Singer and the parents alleged to have paid into the scheme could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
(Reporting by Ross Kerber and Nate Raymond, writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Bill Trott)