More than 30 wealthy, well-connected, and/or famous parents were charged in the biggest college admissions scam in American history. The list of defendants is resplendent with celebrities and moguls in the entertainment industry, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
According to court filings, these individuals were alleged to have paid massive bribes, ranging from $100,000 to $6.5 million, to get their children admitted to prestigious academic institutions such as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, USC, etc.
Celebrities Ordered to Serve Time in Jail
The aforementioned actress Felicity Huffman, famous for her role on the television program “Desperate Housewives”, was ordered to serve 14 days in prison, one year of probation, perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $30,000 fine as part of her criminal sentence, which was handed down in federal court. Huffman pled guilty to paying $15,000 to have her eldest daughter’s SAT score falsified so she could get into a prestigious university. Huffman reportedly masked the $15,000 as a charitable donation for disadvantaged young people, according to Insider.com.
Additional Charges Filed Against Celebrities Fighting the Allegations
It appears prosecutors offered lenient sentences to the parents who agreed to enter guilty pleas in this matter. The parents who are fighting the criminal charges, which include actress Lori Loughlin, famous for her role on “Full House” and “Fuller House,” are facing harsher penalties and additional criminal charges, including conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. If convicted on all of the charges filed, Loughlin could potentially be ordered to serve up to 40 years in prison.
Scope of the Scam
Federal law enforcement officials, when they learned of these bribes opened an investigation titled “Operation Varsity Blues,” a reference to the popular 1999 film about a high school football team in Texas. The investigation, which lasted a year, included an array of different investigative techniques, including the use of wiretaps, undercover operatives and a team of agents employed by the FBI and IRS.
Investigators detailed a scandal that perverted much of the admissions process for America’s elite colleges. Unlike most other SAT cheating cases, the scheme reached deep into the academy, implicating officials who allegedly subverted the missions of the universities themselves.
The government stated it has evidence that defendants paid close to $25 million in bribes to coaches and test administrators between 2011 and 2018. In some instances, the bribes would be disguised as charitable contributions, according to Bloomberg News.
According to federal prosecutors, the admissions scam had two major components – (1) bribing coaches to recommend admission for students whose academic performance was below average for a university and (2) bribing college exam proctors to help students cheat on admissions tests by allowing professional test-takers attend the exam or provide students the answers to the exam.
Bribery Charges are No Joke
As you can see, being charged with alleged bribery is quite serious. Whether you reside in California, New York, or Nevada, a conviction for bribery could result in you having to serve years in prison. For example, bribery is categorized as a Category C felony in Nevada . If convicted, a defendant can be ordered to serve between 1 and 5 years in a Nevada prison and have to pay up to $10,000 in fines. In addition to state bribery charges, there are also federal bribery charges that can be filed under United States Code § 201, among other federal criminal statutes.