TV stars and coaches charged in college bribery scheme

By  | 

BOSTON (AP) — UPDATE: A judge says actress Felicity Huffman can be released on $250,000 in a case in which she is accused of paying a bribe to secure her daughter's admission to college.

Felicity Huffman, American film, stage, and television actress, Photo Date: 4/1/2018 / Photo: Larry King / Youtube / Lori Loughlin, American actress, model, and producer, Photo Date: 2/19/2019 / Photo: The Hollywood Reporter / Youtube

A magistrate judge ordered the "Desperate Housewives" star to restrict her travel to the continental United States.

Court documents say Huffman paid $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation so her daughter could take part in the college entrance-exam cheating scam.

The documents state a cooperating witness 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 her daughter's answers. The person told investigators the couple agreed to the plan.

Macy attended his wife's initial court appearance. He has not been charged and authorities have not said why.

___

Four people arrested in New York City in the college admissions prosecution have each been released on $500,000 bail after brief appearances in Manhattan federal court.

Lawyers for Gregory Abbott, Gordon Caplan, and Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez declined to comment after their clients appeared before a magistrate judge to face charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

A prosecutor had sought $1 million bail against Abbott, a New York founder of a food and beverage packaging company, claiming he was a risk to flee.

Caplan, of Greenwich, Connecticut, is co-chairman of the Willkie Farr & Gallagher law firm, which has 700 lawyers in 10 offices in six countries.

Manuel Henriquez, chairman of Hercules Capital Inc., shook his head repeatedly in court. Elizabeth Henriquez appeared distressed, repeatedly running her hands through her hair.

___

The University of Southern California says it has fired two employees who were indicted in a bribery scheme that allowed wealthy parents to get their children into top colleges.

The university said Tuesday that senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and water polo coach Jovan Vavic were fired.

The news came hours after the two were named in a wide-ranging indictment by federal prosecutors in Boston.

Court documents say Vavic was paid $250,000 and designated two students as recruits for his water polo team to facilitate their admission to the university.

USC says it is also reviewing its admissions procedures.

Prosecutors allege Heinel also helped facilitate admissions after she was paid bribes. Heinel's attorney had no comment Tuesday.

FBI spokesman Jason White says Vavic was taken into custody Tuesday in Honolulu. It's not clear if he has an attorney to speak for him.

___

A lawyer for a consultant who admitted to running a nationwide college admissions bribery scheme says his client intends to fully cooperate with federal prosecutors.

Attorney Donald Heller told reporters that William "Rick" Singer is "remorseful and contrite and wants to move on with his life." Heller says Singer is "relieved that this part is over."

Authorities say parents paid Singer large sums to bribe coaches and administrators to help get their children into elite universities.

John Vandemoer, the former head sailing coach at Stanford, pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting bribes.

His attorney, Rob Fisher, says that Vandemoer regrets that Stanford has been dragged into the case and that Vandemoer loved the school and its students.

Fisher noted that Vandemoer didn't pocket any of the money he received in exchange for recommending prospective students for admission, unlike other coaches that have been charged. The money went to Stanford's sailing program.

___

Actor William H. Macy has been let into a Los Angeles courtroom before his wife, actress Felicity Huffman, appears on a charge of paying a bribe to secure her daughter's admission to college.

Huffman was one of about a dozen people taken into custody Tuesday in Los Angeles in a sweeping college admissions bribery scam.

Court documents say Huffman paid $15,000 she disguised as a charitable donation so her daughter could partake in the college entrance cheating scam.

Macy has not been charged; authorities haven't said why. Representatives for Huffman haven't returned a message seeking comment.

Actress Lori Loughlin (LAWK'-lin) was also charged but was not taken into custody Tuesday. Her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was arrested at their home and is expected to appear at Tuesday's hearing in Los Angeles.

The founder of an admissions consulting company pleaded guilty earlier Tuesday in Boston to running the scheme. A recently fired Stanford sailing coach also pleaded guilty in Boston to accepting bribes.

___

The former head sailing coach at Stanford University has admitted to accepting bribes to help get students into school by pretending they were athletic recruits.

John Vandemoer was the second person to plead guilty Tuesday in the sweeping college admissions bribery scheme. He is charged with racketeering conspiracy.

Authorities say Vandemoer conspired with an admissions consultant to pretend two prospective students were competitive sailors in exchange for payments to the Stanford sailing program. Neither student ended up attending Stanford.

Stanford said Tuesday that Vandemoer has been fired.

The consultant, William "Rick" Singer, pleaded guilty earlier Tuesday.

They are among 50 people charged in what officials say is the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

___

The founder of an admissions consulting company has pleaded guilty to running a nationwide college admissions bribery scheme involving wealthy parents and coaches at elite universities.

William "Rick" Singer, of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court Tuesday to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Singer is among 50 people charged in what federal officials say is the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Justice Department.

Authorities say Singer schemed with parents, coaches and others to pay students' way into schools like Yale, Georgetown and Stanford University.

Prosecutors say parents paid Singer about $25 million to bribe coaches and administrators into pretending that their children were athletic recruits to guarantee their admission.

___

Fifty people, including Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were charged Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents allegedly bribed college coaches and other insiders to get their children into some of the nation's most elite schools.

View the full list of those indicted here

Federal authorities called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department, with the parents accused of paying an estimated $25 million in bribes.

"These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the results of an investigation code-named Operation Varsity Blues.

The scandal is certain to inflame longstanding complaints that children of the wealthy and well-connected have the inside track in college admissions — sometimes through big, timely donations from their parents — and that privilege begets privilege.

At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance or business, were among those charged. Dozens, including Huffman, were arrested by midday.

The coaches worked at such schools as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, 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.

Prosecutors said parents paid an admissions consultant 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 alter students' scores.

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their children's admission, officials said.

"For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected," Lelling said.

Several defendants, including Huffman, were charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Lelling said the investigation is continuing and authorities believe other parents were involved. The schools themselves are not targets of the investigation, he said.

No students were charged. Authorities said in many cases the teenagers were not aware of what was going on.

The investigation began when authorities received a tip about the admissions scheme from someone they were interviewing in a separate case, Lelling said. He did not elaborate.

Authorities said coaches in such sports as soccer, sailing, tennis, water polo and volleyball accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience. That, in turn, improved their chances of admission.

Prosecutors said parents were also instructed to claim their children had learning disabilities so that they could take the ACT or SAT by themselves, with extended time. That made it easier to pull off the tampering, prosecutors said.

Among the parents charged were 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.

Caplan was accused of paying $75,000 to get a test supervisor to correct the answers on her daughter's ACT exam after she took it. In a conversation last June with a cooperating witness, he was told his daughter needed "to be stupid" when a psychologist evaluated her for learning disabilities in order to get more time for the exam, according to court papers.

"It's the home run of home runs," the witness said.

"And it works?" Caplan asked.

"Every time," the witness responded, prompting laughter from both.

At one point, Caplan asked if schools were "concerned with this."

"Schools don't know. Schools don't know," the witness said.

The bribes allegedly were dispensed through an admissions consulting company in Newport Beach, California. Authorities said parents paid William Singer, the founder of the Edge College & Career Network, the bribe money to get their children into college.

Prosecutors said Singer was scheduled to plead guilty in Boston Tuesday to charges including racketeering conspiracy. John Vandemoer, the former head sailing coach at Stanford, was also expected to plead guilty.

Colleges moved quickly to discipline the coaches accused. Stanford fired Vandemoer, UCLA suspended its soccer coach, and Wake Forest did the same with its volleyball coach.

Several schools, including USC and Yale, said they were victims themselves of the scam. USC also said it is reviewing its admissions process to prevent further such abuses.

In one case, a former USC women's soccer coach and the consultant allegedly worked together in 2017 to help a client's child get into Yale in exchange for $1.2 million from the family. A false athletic profile created for the student said she played competitive soccer and had been on China's junior national development team.

The profile was sent to the coach of the Yale women's soccer team and the student was accepted. Prosecutors said the Yale coach, Rudolph Meredith, received $400,000 from the consulting company after the student was accepted, even though he knew the student did not play competitive soccer.

Loughlin, who was charged along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared in the ABC sitcom "Full House," while Huffman starred in ABC's "Desperate Housewives."

Messages seeking comment from Huffman's representative were not immediately returned. A spokeswoman for Loughlin had no comment.

Loughlin and her husband allegedly gave $500,000 to have their two daughters labeled as recruits to the USC crew team, even though neither participated in the sport. Their 19-year-old daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli, who has a popular YouTube channel, attends USC.

Court documents said Huffman paid $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation so that her daughter could take part in the college entrance-exam cheating scam.

Court papers said a cooperating witness 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 her daughter's answers. The person told investigators the couple agreed to the plan.

Macy was not charged; authorities did not say why.

Macy told Parade magazine in January that the college application process for their daughter was a source of stress. The couple's daughter, Sofia, is an aspiring actress who attends Los Angeles High School of the Arts.

"She's going to go to college. I'm the outlier in this thing. We're right now in the thick of college application time, which is so stressful," Macy said.

Copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved.



 
We welcome comments and civil discussions. powered by Disqus