Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin Among Dozens Indicted in Alleged College Admissions Scam
High-profile actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are among dozens charged in an alleged college admissions cheating scam involving elite colleges and universities including Yale, Georgetown, the University of Southern California and Stanford, PEOPLE confirms.
Federal court records unsealed Tuesday in Boston name 50 people who have been allegedly indicted as part of the nationwide scheme, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.
“Dozens of individuals involved in a nationwide conspiracy that facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and the admission of students to elite universities as purported athletic recruits were arrested by federal agents in multiple states and charged in documents unsealed on March 12, 2019, in federal court in Boston,” the release says.
Athletic coaches from Yale, Stanford, USC, Wake Forest and Georgetown, among others, are implicated, as well as parents and exam administrators, the release says.
Huffman allegedly gave $15,000 “to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her oldest daughter,” the indictment states.
Loughlin allegedly gave $500,000 to have her children designated as crew team recruits, when they had never rowed, the indictment states.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI alleged in the indictment that the alleged scheme helped students gain acceptance to top schools by helping them cheat on college exams.
Some named in the court documents allegedly paid bribes of up to $6 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California, UCLA, the University of San Diego, University of Texas, Wake Forest, and Yale, according to federal prosecutors.
It also helped high school athletes get into top colleges no matter what their abilities, according to the indictment.
“There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, and I’ll add that there will not be a separate criminal justice system either,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said during a press conference Tuesday.
Federal agents secretly recorded telephone calls with Huffman and a cooperating witness, according to the court papers.
The documents say actress Loughlin — best known for her role as Aunt Becky on the ABC sitcom Full House — and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
Federal agents obtained emails from Loughlin allegedly implicating her in the scam, according to the documents.
Reps for Huffman and Loughlin did not immediately return calls by PEOPLE for comment.
Admissions to the schools mentioned in the complaint are extremely competitive: For first-time, full-time undergraduates, only 5 percent of applicants get into Stanford, 7 percent get into Yale, 17 percent get into Georgetown, 18 percent get into the University of Southern California and 29 percent get into Wake Forest, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Many of the schools that were targeted in the scheme have since responded to the allegations.
“As the indictment makes clear, the Department of Justice believes that Yale has been the victim of a crime perpetrated by its former women’s soccer coach,” Yale University said in a statement to PEOPLE. “The university has cooperated fully in the investigation and will continue to cooperate as the case moves forward.”
USC maintained they have not been “accused of any wrongdoing and will continue to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation,” in their response. They are now conducting their own internal investigation and reviewing their admissions process.
Stanford University announced they have terminated their head sailing coach, who was implicated in the case, and believe no one else at the school is involved.
“The charges state that sailing head coach John Vandemoer accepted financial contributions to the sailing program from an intermediary in exchange for agreeing to recommend two prospective students for admission to Stanford, the school said in a statement. “Neither student came to Stanford. However, the alleged behavior runs completely counter to Stanford’s values.”
Wake Forest University tells PEOPLE that they have placed their volleyball coach on administrative leave following his alleged role in the plot.
“Wake Forest is aware of the allegations regarding head volleyball coach Bill Ferguson. The University has retained outside legal counsel to look into this matter,” the university announced. “Wake Forest has placed Ferguson on administrative leave and named Randi Smart interim coach, effective immediately. We will have no further comment at this time.”