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Felicity Huffman pleads guilty in college admissions scheme

Felicity Huffman pleads guilty in college admissions scheme

May 14th, 2019 in National News

Felicity Huffman, center, departs federal court with her brother Moore Huffman Jr., left, Monday, May 13, 2019, in Boston, where she pleaded guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty Monday in the college admissions bribery scheme, the biggest name to do so in a scandal that has underscored the lengths to which some wealthy parents will go to get their children into top universities.

The Emmy-winning actress, 56, could face prison time after she admitted to participating in the nationwide scam, in which authorities said parents bribed coaches, rigged entrance exams — or both — to game the admissions system.

Huffman pleaded guilty in federal court to paying an admissions consultant $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter’s answers on the SAT. She also considered going through with the plan for her younger daughter before ultimately deciding not to, authorities said.

The consultant, Rick Singer, arranged for the cheating by having students obtain permission for extra time on the exams through diagnoses for things like learning disabilities, and then taking the exams at his testing center, prosecutors said.

In court, Huffman explained her daughter had been seeing a neuropsychologist for years and been getting extra time on tests since she was 11 — an apparent attempt to explain her daughter’s doctor had no part in the scheme.

“I just didn’t want to create the impression that neuropsychologists have any part in this,” a tearful Huffman said before stopping to collect herself.

Sentencing was set for Sept. 13. Because she agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors said they would recommend four months in prison, but the judge could choose not to put her behind bars at all.

She arrived at court holding the hand of her brother, Moore Huffman Jr., and did not say anything to journalists. In court, she wore a gray dress and a sweater and sat flanked by her attorneys while her brother watched from the front row. Her husband, actor William H. Macy, didn’t attend.

Huffman had apologized in a statement last month and said she will accept the consequences. She said she “betrayed” her 18-year-old daughter, who was not aware of her plan.

“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,” Huffman said.

Investigators have said Macy, 69, was with her when admissions consultant Rick Singer explained how he could arrange for the cheating because he “controlled” a test center. Huffman and Macy agreed to the plan, authorities said, but Macy has not been charged. Prosecutors have not explained why.

California businessman Devin Sloane also pleaded guilty Monday to paying $250,000 in bribes to get his son into the University of Southern California as a fake water polo recruit. Officials said he bought athletic gear and worked with a designer to create a bogus photo of his son playing the sport for the application.

Huffman and Sloane are among 14 parents who agreed to plead guilty in the biggest admissions scandal ever prosecuted in the U.S., known as “Operation Varsity Blues.” The scandal involves prestigious schools across the country and has also embroiled prominent college coaches.

The parents are accused of paying Singer to bribe coaches in exchange for helping their children get into schools as fake athletic recruits. Singer also paid off entrance exam administrators to allow someone else to take tests for students or fix their answers, authorities said.

Some parents and coaches who have agreed to plead guilty are cooperating with prosecutors against current or future co-defendants, but Huffman is not known to be among them.

Singer has pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy. He began working with authorities last year and secretly recorded his conversations with actress Lori Loughlin, Huffman and other parents in the hopes of getting a lenient sentence.

Some parents have decided to fight the charges, including “Full House” star Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who have pleaded not guilty to paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither is a rower.

Loughlin and Giannulli, who are also charged with money laundering conspiracy, have not publicly commented.