Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman is one of dozens of people charged over an alleged fraud ring that saw wealthy parents pay to get their children into prestigious US colleges on fake test results.
The Massachusetts Department of Justice (DoJ) lifted the lid on the national scam on Tuesday, local time, and arrested and charged Huffman, along with Full House Lori Loughlin and elite college coaches and college prep executives from around the US.
The DoJ said the scam had two parts. First to pay a college prep organisation to take the test on behalf of students or to correct their answers. Second, to allegedly bribed college coaches to help admit the students into college as recruited athletes, regardless of their actual abilities.
William ‘Rick’ Singer, 58, from California is accused of running the nation-wide scam and was charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Between approximately 2011 and February 2019, Singer allegedly conspired with dozens of parents, athletic coaches, a university athletics administrator, and others, to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of students to colleges and universities including Yale University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and Wake Forest University, among others.
Singer used a fake charitable organisation he had set up to conceal the nature and source of the bribes.
Huffman, 56, is the most recognised name on the list having starred on the hit show Desperate Housewives for eight years along with a string of other TV shows and movies. She is married to fellow actor William H. Macy and the pair have two daughters together, Sophia, 18, and Georgia, 16.
Macy recently spoke out about the stressful college admissions process in the US, which is known to be highly competitive.
“My daughters are extraordinary women,” Macy, 68, told Parade magazine. “They’re really a joy. They’re both thriving. They’ve got a life ahead of them, but you can exhale a little bit. They’re 16 and 18 years old, and they’re good people. My daughter Sofia, the oldest, is going to LAHSA [Los Angeles High School of the Arts]. She’s thriving there. I know she’s going to make a go of it in the business, which I support. I’ve seen her; she’s good, she’s really good.”
The interviewer then asked if his older daughter would go to college.
“She’s going to go to college,” he said. “We’re right now in the thick of college application time, which is so stressful. I am voting that once she gets accepted, she maybe takes a year off. God doesn’t let you be 18 twice.”
He added: “My daughter Georgia, she’s interested in politics, political science and pursuing that. She’s in a very academic school and killing it.”
The process of applying for college, or university, in the US is far different to Australia’s relatively simple requirements. American college hopefuls are required to write admission essays and fill out complicated paperwork to apply for their schools of choice.
Once they get in, they are faced with astronomical fees that are typically take years to pay off. For example, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Yale – one of America’s prestigious ivy league universities, costs about $US93,000 ($AU131,000). In Australia, a similar degree costs about $AU20,000.
“This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud,” Lelling said. “There can be no separate college admission system for the wealthy, and I’ll add that there will not be a separate criminal justice system either.”
He added: “For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected.”