Felicity Huffman has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in a college admissions scandal

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March 14, 2019 03:30 PM

Like most mothers, Felicity Huffman wanted her daughters to do well on their college entrance exams so they could get into a good university.

According to federal prosecutors, the 56-year-old actress did things many parents do: encourage her daughters to take practice tests, schedule the SATs for a convenient weekend and even apply for them to have extra time to take the exam.

None of those things are illegal; they’re typical ways for parents to help their kids get a leg up in the ultra-competitive world of college acceptance.

But, according to authorities, Huffman took some extra steps — and they were against the law.

Prosecutors allege dozens of wealthy parents — including Huffman and fellow actress Lori Loughlin — paid exorbitant sums to admissions consultant William Singer and his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation (“KWF”), which prosecutors said was actually a front for accepting bribes. Prosecutors allege Singer would then help students cheat on their SATs — sometimes without their knowledge — and bribe coaches and administrators to accept into school the children of his wealthy donors.

Singer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to four charges: racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice, PEOPLE confirms.

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“Huffman and her spouse made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 to KWF to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her oldest daughter,” the criminal complaint against her alleges. “Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so.”

The Phone Calls

According to the 204-page criminal complaint released on Tuesday, Huffman had a series of recorded phone conversations with an unidentified cooperating witness in the alleged scam. The witness, who worked with KWF, allegedly helped cheat on the test for the actress’ daughter.

According to the complaint, the cooperating witness told Huffman that he “controlled” a testing center, and could arrange for a third party to purport to proctor their older daughter’s SAT and secretly correct her answers afterwards.

The witness and Huffman then allegedly exchanged emails about the logistics of the cheating. When the daughter’s high school counselor suggested that she herself would administer the test, Huffman allegedly sent an email to the witness: “Ruh Ro! Looks like [my daughter’s high school] wants to provide own proctor.”

Huffman allegedly told the high school counselor that her daughter would take her SAT at a different location. Ultimately, the daughter took an SAT proctored by a person described in the complaint as another cooperating witness — and performed 400 points better on that exam than on her PSAT.

It was not clear from the complaint whether prosecutors allege that the daughter’s answers were doctored or whether someone took the test for her.

The affidavit alleges that Huffman and “her spouse” — actor William H. Macy, who was not indicted in the case — later made a $15,000 donation to KWF.

The affidavit alleges that Huffman spoke with the witness again, this time on behalf of her younger daughter.

“She’s so academically driven,” Huffman allegedly said about the younger daughter. “No matter what happens, even if we go, ‘This is a great score,’ that she’ll go, ‘I really want to take it again.'”

Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy with daughters Georgia and Sofia
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

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The affidavit alleges Macy also spoke to the witness about the couple’s younger daughter. “We’re talking about Georgetown, places like –,” Macy allegedly told the witness as they discussed what scores she needed to get on the SATs.

In another alleged conversation, Huffman worried that her younger daughter’s possible sudden improvement on the test could raise red flags with her tutor.

“I just didn’t know if it’d be odd for the tutor if we go, ‘Oh, she did this on March 9th, but she did so much better in May,'” Huffman allegedly said.

Authorities believe that they have enough evidence to prove criminal wrongdoing. According to the indictment obtained by PEOPLE from the U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, Huffman has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She was taken into custody and released on $250,000 bond.

Huffman has not yet entered a plea. Reps for Huffman have not returned calls by PEOPLE for comment.

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