Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman arrested over college cheating scam

The Week - Mar 13, 10:51 GMT

Description  Felicity Huffman and her husband William H

Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy

Felicity Huffman and her husband William H. Macy arriving at the Emmy awards in September 2018


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Felicity Huffman and William H. Macy

Oscar nominee taken into custody by FBI over allegations she paid fixer to help her daughter cheat admissions test

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Wednesday, March 13, 2019 - 11:11am

Screen star Felicity Huffman is one of more than 50 people charged with participating in a US college admissions scam in which wealthy parents allegedly used cheating and bribery to secure their children places at elite universities.

The 56-year-old Oscar nominee was arrested by FBI agents “without incident” yesterday, CNN reports. She has since been released on bail.

Huffman has two daughters, aged 18 and 16, with her husband, actor William H. Macy, who is not one of those named in the indictment.

The allegations read like a soapy plotline from Desperate Housewives, in which Huffman played put-upon mother Lynette Scavo from 2004 to 2012.

At a press conference in Boston, US attorney Andrew Lelling said the ringleader of the scheme, William “Rick” Singer, offered two illicit routes to college entry.

“One was to cheat on the SAT or ACT [university admissions tests] and the other was to use his connections with Division I coaches and use bribes to get these parents’ kids into school with fake athletic credentials,” he said.

Parents would allegedly pay Singer large sums for his services, funnelled to him through a bogus charitable foundation he set up to launder the bribes. Between 2011 and 2018, he is thought to have made up to $25m (£19m).

Singer has pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice, and faces a maximum penalty of 65 years in prison and over $1m in fines when he is sentenced in June.

“At its core, the alleged scheme is remarkably simple - and brazen,” says CNN.

According to the indictment, Singer used a variety of tricks to give his clients’ children an unfair advantage, from exploiting loopholes designed to help students with learning difficulties to arranging for an accomplice to sit the test in the place of the real candidate.

Huffman’s daughter scored 1,020 points on a mock SAT test, but registered a score of 1,420 in the real exam.

Documents filed with the court claim that she was given twice the amount of time to complete the test as other students, and that a corrupt examiner adjusted her answers to boost her score, TMZ reports.

Prosecutors say that a donation of $15,000 (£11,500) made by Huffman to Singer’s Key Worldwide Foundation - which claimed to help “underserved children” - was actually a payment for his services.

She was also “secretly recorded discussing the scheme with a co-operating witness”, the BBC reports.

Huffman is not the only well-known TV actress accused of participating in the admissions scam. Lori Loughlin, who starred as Aunt Becky in the sitcom Full House, and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli have also been charged.

The couple allegedly “donated” $500,000 (£380,000) to Singer’s fake charity after he had their two daughters recruited to the University of Southern California’s boat team, despite the fact that neither rowed competitively.

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