Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin among 50 indicted in largest-ever case alleging bribery to get kids into collegesJoey Garrison and Maria Puente, USA TODAYPublished 10:57 a.m. ET March 12, 2019 | Updated 1:12 p.m. ET March 12, 2019
Felicity Huffman on February 19, 2019 in Los Angeles. (Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/ Getty Images)
BOSTON – Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin and nine college coaches are among the 50 people charged Tuesday in what federal officials say is the nation's largest-ever college admissions bribery case prosecuted by the Justice Department.
The Justice Department charged 33 affluent parents, which include CEOs and television stars, with taking part in an elaborate conspiracy that involved cheating on the SAT and ACT and parents paying coaches "enormous sums" to accept students who fabricated their athletic credentials at elite universities and colleges.
In some cases, coaches agreed to pretend that students applying to their school were highly recruited athletes when, in fact, they didn't even compete in that particular sport.
Wake Forest University says it has suspended its head volleyball coach Bill Ferguson amid the investigation. Ferguson has been placed on administrative leave after being accused of accepting $100,000 to recruit a student who had been on the North Carolina school wait list.
Others charged included three people who organized the scams, two ACT and SAT exam administrators, one exam proctor, and one college administrator.
At the center of the case, according to federal prosecutors, was an admissions consultant named William Rick Singer, who pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy charges of racketeering, money laundering, defrauding the United States and obstruction of justice.
Prosecutors say Singer operated a college counseling organization called "The Key," which he used to accept more than $25 million in payments from parents from 2011 through Feb. 2019. He's accused of funneling money to coaches and others to guarantee admission to top schools such as Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, the University of Southern California, UCLA, the University of Texas and Wake Forest University.
Singer worked with parents to create athletic profiles that faked credentials of club teams and would sometimes involve staged photographs or doctored stock photos from the internet.
In addition, prosecutors say some parents paid Singer between $15,000 and $75,000 to either take the ACT for their child or correct their children's after the test to achieve a high school. He did this by paying Mark Riddell, another defendant in the case, who bribed two exam administrators, also defendants.
Lori Loughlin on February 28, 2019. (Photo: Frazer Harrison, Getty Images)
Authorities say the consulting company also bribed administrators of college entrance exams to allow a Florida man to take the tests on behalf of students or replace their answers with his.
According to court documents, "Desperate Housewives" actress Huffman and "Full House" star Loughlin are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
In addition, Loughlin's husband, Mossimo Giannulli, also is on the list. Huffman's husband, actor William H. Macy, is not.
Elizabeth Much, a representative for Loughlin, said she had no information on the case when first contacted by USA TODAY. USA TODAY has reached out to a rep for Huffman for comment.
Contributing: The Associated Press