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Actors, CEOs charged in nationwide college admissions cheating scam

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sshepard/iStock(BOSTON) — Hollywood actors, including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, and a slew of chief executives are among 50 people charged in a nationwide college admissions cheating scam, according to court records unsealed in Boston Tuesday.

Those indicted allegedly paid bribes of up to $6 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.

“Beginning in or about 2011, and continuing through the present, the defendants — principally individuals whose high-school age children were applying to college — conspired with others to use bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children’s admission to colleges and universities in the District of Massachusetts and elsewhere, including Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, and the University of Southern California — Los Angeles,” the indictment said.

In most cases the students did not know their admission was contingent on a bribe, officials said.

The 200 pages of charging documents in the case were unsealed in Boston federal court.

According to the charging papers, Huffman “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 … to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter.”

“Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so,” the documents allege.

Federal agents secretly recorded telephone calls with Huffman and a cooperating witness, according to the court papers.

The documents say 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 implicating her in the scam, according to the documents.

Federal authorities ultimately had three cooperating witnesses to help them build their case.

One of the cooperating witnesses is a founder of the non-profit Key Worldwide Foundation based in California and another worked as the director of college exam prep at a prep school and sports academy in Bradenton, Florida, according to the court papers.

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