Actress Lori Loughlin was taken into custody by the FBI Wednesday in Los Angeles after she, fellow movie star Felicity Huffman and 48 others were charged in a $25 million college admissions scam that has prompted repercussions from Hollywood to the boardrooms of major companies.
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Loughlin is expected to appear in federal court in Los Angeles later Wednesday to face fraud charges stemming from the nationwide investigation.
Loughlin, 54, flew to Los Angeles overnight from Canada, where she was filming a Hallmark movie, sources told ABC News.
A former cast member on the ABC sitcom “Full House,” Loughlin and Oscar-nominated actress Huffman, 56, are among 33 parents charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in the nationwide scam to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
The feds dubbed the investigation “Operation Varsity Blues” and said it was triggered by an unrelated investigation by FBI agents in Boston.
Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, 55, was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and appeared in Los Angeles federal court.
Loughlin and 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,” according to the indictment.
More than 300 FBI agents fanned out across the country on Tuesday morning with arrest warrants for 46 people.
Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, announced the stunning indictment Tuesday and said the parents charged in the scam represent “a catalog of wealth and privilege.”
As shock waves from the arrests spread across the country, the fallout for some of the defendants was swift.
Hercules Capital, Inc., one of the largest venture capital companies in the country, announced Wednesday that its chairman and chief executive officer Manuel Henriquez had stepped down.
Henriquez, 55, of Atherton, California, and his wife, Elizabeth, 56, were among those charged in the case.
Other schools named in the indictment are UCLA, Wake Forest and the University of Texas.
USC officials fired its famed water polo coach, Jovan Vanvic, who allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for scholarships for children of the rich. USC also terminated Donna Heinel, the school’s senior associate athletic director, who was also charged.
Stanford University also fired its longtime sailing coach John Vandemoer, who has already pleaded guilty to federal charges of racketeering conspiracy.
Wake Forest officials placed its head volleyball coach, William Ferguson, 48, on administrative leave after he was indicted.
Vanvic, 57, who led the USC Trojans to 16 NCAA national championships, was arrested Tuesday in Hawaii at a Waikiki hotel. He made his first appearance in federal court Tuesday afternoon wearing a gold and cardinal red USC athletic jacket.
NCAA statement on college admissions investigation:
“The charges brought forth today are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education. We are looking into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated.”
— Inside the NCAA (@InsidetheNCAA) March 12, 2019
The NCAA announced it will launch an investigation into the widespread cheating scandal that implicated nine coaches at elite schools.
“The charges brought forth … are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education,” the NCAA wrote in a statement on Twitter. “We are looking into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated.”
The ringleader of the scam, William “Rick” Singer, owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation and a company called Edge College & Career Network, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court on Tuesday to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.
Singer allegedly accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools,” Lelling said.
Federal officials said Singer was a corroborating witness in the investigation and wore a wire to capture some of the conversations with parents and cohorts implicated in the scam.
Singer’s inner circle included Steven Masera, 69, the accountant and financial officer for the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation and Mark Riddell, a private school counselor in Bradenton, Florida, who were both indicted in the scam, according to the indictment.
Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom, California, another employee of the Edge College & Career Network and the Key Worldwide Foundation, was charged.
Singer would instruct parents to seek extended time for the children to take SAT and ACT entrance exams by obtaining medical documentation that their child had a learning disability, according to the indictment. The parents were then told to get the location of the test changed to one of two testing centers, one in Houston and another in West Hollywood, California, where test administrators Niki Williams, 44, of Houston and Igor Dvorskiy, 52, of Sherman Oaks, California, and an exam proctor helped carry out the scam, the indictment alleges.
Riddell would allegedly either take the tests for students or would correct their answers after they took the tests, according to the indictment.
To bolster students’ college entrance applications, Singer worked with parents to allegedly concoct glowing profiles of their children, including staged or Photoshopped pictures of them participating in sports, the indictment alleges.
In one case highlighted by federal prosecutors, the former head women’s soccer coach at Yale University, Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, 51, was paid $400,000 to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer. The parents of that student had paid Singer $1.2 million.
According to the charging papers, Huffman “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000” to a sham charity set up by Singer to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter.
The actress allegedly made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so, the documents allege.
Huffman’s husband, actor William H. Macy, was not charged, but according to the court document he and Huffman were caught on a recorded conversation with a corroborating witness in the case allegedly discussing a $15,000 payment to ensure their younger daughter scored high on a college entrance exam.
Federal officials noted the roster of CEOs charged in the scam. Besides Henriquez, also indicted were Robert Zangrillo, 52, of Miami, founder and CEO of the private investment firm Dragon Global; Bill McGlashan, 55, of Mill Valley, California, a businessman and international private equity investor; Gordon Caplan, a New York attorney; and Gregory Abbott, 68, founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp., a New York food and beverage packaging company.
“For every student admitted through fraud an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected,” Lelling said.