STANFORD (CBS SF/AP) — Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, Stanford University’s head sailing coach and wealthy Bay Area parents were among dozens of people named in a sweeping nation-wide admissions bribery case unsealed in Boston federal court.
According to the criminal complaint released on Tuesday, the scheme began in 2011 and is the largest case of its kind ever filed by the U.S. Justice Department. The case was deemed “Operation Varsity Blues” by prosecutors.
Sacramento-area businessman William Rick Singer, who ran a college counseling and preparation firm, is accused of being the ringleader of the fraudulent scheme, later becoming a cooperating witness. Also among those charged are a number of Bay Area executives, CEO and entrepreneurs.
One of the Bay Area defendants, Bill McGlashan, has been put on indefinite leave by private equity firm TPG. McGlashan is founder and Managing Partner of TPG Growth.
Two other Bay Area defendants, Palo Alto-based Hercules Capital CEO Manuel Henriquez and his wife Elizabeth, appeared in Manhattan federal court Tuesday after being arrested in New York. Manuel Henriquez shook his head repeatedly in court and Elizabeth Henriquez appeared distressed, repeatedly running her hands through her hair. The two were released on $500,000 bail each.
“This case is about the widening corruption in elite college admissions, through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud. 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,” said US attorney Andrew Lelling.
“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected,” said Lelling.
Raw Video: Indictments Announced In College Admissions Bribing Scandal
According to Lelling, nearly 50 people have been indicted, including the organizers of the alleged scam, exam administrators, an exam proctor, a college administrator, nine coaches and 33 parents. Lelling indicated there may be more people involved than those indicted.
In some cases, prosecutors said fake athletic profiles were made to make students look like strong high school athletes when they actually weren’t.
Cheating on SAT and ACT tests was another aspect of the admissions scheme, prosecutors said. According to an affadavit, parents were told to seek attention or learning disability accommodations for their children and then request the exams be given at centers where test administrators were bribed “to allow a third party to facilitate cheating.” Court papers say clients paid $15,000 to $75,000 per test structured as charitable donations. In other cases, prosecutors allege paid stand-ins would take the test at a site where the proctor was in on the scheme.
“This is a case where they flaunted their wealth to buy the best education money can buy,” said Joseph Bonovolonta, Boston FBI Special Agent In Charge.
Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin of “Full House” fame, are among those charged in the case. Both are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Huffman is accused of disguising a $15,000 charitable payment in the bribery scheme. The complaint alleges the “Desperate Housewives” star and her spouse, actor William H. Macy, made the payment to participate in a college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her oldest daughter. Huffman allegedly arranged to pursue the scheme a second time for her younger daughter,before deciding against it.
Huffman was taken into custody Tuesday. A judge said she could be released on $250,000 bail. Macy has not been charged in the investigation.
Loughlin, along with husband and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of agreeing to $500,000 in bribes 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 – facilitating their admission to USC.
Giannulli was arrested at the couple’s Southern California home and was expected to appear at a hearing Tuesday in Los Angeles. Loughlin was charged but not taken into custody.
Prosecutors also Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer with racketeering in the alleged admissions scheme. Both Singer and Vandemoer pleaded guilty to charges in a Boston federal courtroom Tuesday.
Singer, who ran a firm known as Edge College & Career Network, is accused of taking millions of dollars in bribes to get students admitted to elite universities including Stanford, UCLA, University of San Diego, Wake Forest University, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
Singer became a cooperating witness after agreeing to plead guilty to conspiracy and racketeering.
Prosecutors alleged that parents paid Singer’s company $25 million from 2011 through February 2019 to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes to boost their chances of getting into schools.
Stanford University also announced Tuesday that Vandemoer had been terminated from his position.
“Stanford and its athletics programs have the highest expectations of integrity and ethical conduct,” the statement said. “The university has been cooperating with the Dept. of Justice and is deeply concerned by these allegations. The sailing team head coach has been terminated.”
Aside from Vandemoer, nine other college coaches are accused, including former Yale women’s soccer coach Rudy Meredith; UCLA soccer coach Jorge Salcedo, Wake Forest volleyball coach Bill Ferguson and USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic. On Tuesday, USC fired Vavic along with associate AD Donna Heinel, also indicted in the bribery scheme.
More than 30 parents are accused of paying bribes. No students were charged, and prosecutors said they were often unaware of the measures being taken on their behalf.
Raw Video: Press conference announcing indictments in “Operation Varsity Blues”
© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.