Prosecutors want prison time for Felicity Huffman
Thirteen wealthy parents, including actress Felicity Huffman, and one coach will plead guilty to using bribery and other forms of fraud as part of the college admissions scandal, federal prosecutors in Boston said on Monday.
Huffman, the “Desperate Housewives” star, pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to a fake charity associated with Rick Singer to facilitate cheating for her daughter on the SATs, the complaint says.
She faces up to 20 years in prison. In exchange for Huffman’s plea, federal prosecutors will recommend incarceration at the “low end” of the sentencing range, a $20,000 fine and 12 months of supervised release. They will not bring further charges.
A federal judge will have the final say on the outcome for Huffman and the other defendants.
“I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,” she said in a statement.
“I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.
“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty,” she said in the statement.
Huffman, Gregory and Marcia Abbott, Jane Buckingham, Gordon Caplan, Robert Flaxman, Agustin Huneeus Jr., Marjorie Klapper, Peter Jan Sartorio, Stephen Semprevivo and Devin Sloane were all charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and have agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors said.
Bruce Isackson and Davina Isackson will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Bruce Isackson will also plead guilty to money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the IRS for taking a tax deduction for the bribe.
Finally, Michael Center, the former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas, agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Prosecutors recommended a range of sentences for those pleading guilty, from 12 to 18 months and unspecified “low end” amounts such as Huffman’s recommended sentence.
More than a dozen guilty pleas
Rick Singer, who ran a college prep business, masterminded what prosecutors called the largest college admissions cheating scheme ever prosecuted in the United States.
Singer helped wealthy parents cheat on standardized tests for their children, and he bribed college coaches to falsely designate the children as recruited athletes, smoothing their path to admission.
The scheme helped the students get into highly selective universities like Yale, Stanford, University of Southern California and UCLA.
Several of the central figures in the case have already pleaded guilty, including Singer. Yale women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith, who accepted a bribe to help a student get admitted, and Mark Riddell, who cheated for the students on the SATs and ACTs, have agreed to plead guilty and are cooperating witnesses for the prosecution.
John Vandemoer, Stanford University’s former sailing head coach, has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering.
But a number of the defendants in the case have given no signs of a coming guilty plea, including “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli.
Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team, easing their acceptance to the school.
What Huffman did
The criminal complaint says Huffman and Singer exchanged multiple emails about how to get extra time on her daughters’ SAT.
They then arranged for Huffman’s daughter to take the SAT at a location controlled by an administrator who had been bribed by Singer, the complaint states. Riddell, the brains of the operation, then flew from Tampa to California to cheat on the test for Huffman’s daughter.
Huffman’s daughter received a score of 1420 out of a maximum of 1600 on the SAT, a score about 400 points over her Preliminary SAT exam a year earlier. Huffman later discussed the scheme in a recorded phone call with Singer, the complaint says.
In court last week, Huffman acknowledged her rights, charges and the maximum possible penalties. She waived a pretrial hearing, signed conditions of her release and then was free to leave. Her husband, the actor William H. Macy, is not charged in the case.
Prosecutors will be asking for jail time for all defendants, according to a law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation. The defendants are facing anywhere between six to 21 months in prison if convicted or if they plead guilty, the official added, though the exact sentence would depend on a number of factors.
USC, Georgetown University and other schools implicated in the scheme have said they are reviewing the admissions of students accused of participating. Yale and Stanford have each expelled students associated with the scam.