Felicity Huffman, 13 others plead guilty in Varsity Blues sting
April 8 (UPI) — Actor Felicity Huffman and 13 other defendants pleaded guilty Monday to charges related to a national college bribery and recruitment scheme, the Department of Justice said.
Each of the 14 defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Each was accused of agreeing to pay William “Rick” Singer, the accused mastermind of the scheme, thousands of dollars to help their children with their college admissions process.
Court documents said Huffman paid Singer $15,000 to get her daughter more time to take her SAT test. The Desperate Housewives actor’s husband, William H. Macy, was not charged in the scheme.
In a statement released Monday, Huffman said she had “deep regret and shame” over her actions, and she plans to accept responsibility for her crime.
“I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community. I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly,” she said.
Huffman said she “betrayed” her daughter, who had no knowledge of the scheme.
“This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life,” Huffman said. “My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty.”
Under the terms of Huffman’s plea agreement, prosecutors agreed to recommend imprisonment at the low end of sentencing guidelines for the crime, a fine of $20,000, 12 months of supervised release and restitution.
Huffman was one of 50 people implicated in the scheme, dubbed Varsity Blues, in which prospective students paid for unlawful help with standardized test or paid bribes to be designated as student-athletes for sports they didn’t play.
Among the accused was another actor, Lori Loughlin, who allegedly paid $500,000 to help her two daughters gain acceptance to the University of Southern California through its rowing team.
Meanwhile, Stanford University expelled a student connected to the entrance exam scandal, citing false material in the student’s application.
“We determined that some of the material in the student’s application is false and, in accordance with our policies, have rescinded admission,” the university said on its website without naming the student. “Any credits earned have also been vacated. The student is no longer on Stanford’s campus.”
Three people — two former applicants and a student — have been connected to contributes given to the university’s sailing program through Singer’s foundation.
Stanford’s former sailing coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty March 12 to racketeering charges and arranging bribes to the sailing program in exchange for providing two prospective students with athletic recommendations.
Those prospective students never completed the application process and never attended the school, Stanford said in a statement on its website.
The third student, who was enrolled at the school, was found to have made a contribution to the sailing program through Singer’s foundation months after being admitted.
“The contribution was made several months after the student was admitted to Stanford,” the university said in a statement. “The student had no recommendation from the former sailing coach, or any other coach, and has not at any time had an affiliation with the Stanford sailing program or any other Stanford athletic team.”
Stanford said a total $770,000 was contributed by Singer’s foundation to the sailing program in three “separate gifts.”