Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among the dozens indicted by federal prosecutors Tuesday in connection with an elaborate scheme aimed at getting students into elite colleges.
They are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. Under an investigation titled ‘Operation Varsity Blues’, the two were cited as participants in a scheme centred around William Rick Singer, the owner of a for-profit Newport Beach college admissions company.
He was paid by wealthy parents to help their children cheat on college-entrance exams and falsify students’ athletic records to score admission into elite schools, including UCLA, USC, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown, according to court records.
The news suddenly calls into question the fate of Huffman and Loughlin’s respective upcoming projects for Netflix and the Hallmark Channel, with representatives for both companies not yet publicly commenting on the matter.
Huffman was arrested and is in custody in Los Angeles, along with 11 others. The actress, whose TV credits include the ABC series ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘American Crime’, is accused of disguising a $15,000 (Dh55,087) charitable payment in the bribery scheme, according to court documents.
Prosecutors allege Huffman, who also runs an advice-for-mothers site What the Flicka?, met with a confidential witness who explained that he could control an SAT testing centre and could arrange for someone to proctor her older daughter’s test and correct it.
Huffman’s older daughter allegedly took the test in December 2017 and received a score of 1420. That was a 400-point improvement from her first attempt at the test. In October 2018, Huffman was recorded by the FBI and discussed repeating this scheme for her younger daughter; however, she did not ultimately pursue it.
The charges against Huffman come just weeks before a couple of her projects are set to debut. Along with Patricia Arquette and Angela Bassett, she is part of the ensemble cast of the Netflix comedy film “Otherhood,” which is slated to premiere April 26.
She also portrays prosecutor Linda Fairstein in “When They See Us,” Ava DuVernay’s miniseries recounting the Central Park Five case in 1990. That will premiere on the platform May 31. Huffman also recently wrapped production on the indie flick ‘Tammy’s Always Dying’. Representatives for Huffman and Netflix did not respond to The Times’ request for comment.
Huffman’s husband, fellow actor and “Shameless” star William H. Macy, was not indicted or named in court records.
“I’m the outlier in this thing,” he said when discussing his older daughter Sofia’s college plans in a recent interview with Parade magazine. “We’re right now in the thick of college application time, which is so stressful. I am voting that once she gets accepted, she maybe takes a year off. God doesn’t let you be 18 twice.
“I think this is an opportunity for her,” he added. “But it’s just my opinion, and we’ll see what she wants to do, what Felicity thinks and how the chips fall.”
Meanwhile, Loughlin is scheduled to reprise her role as Rebecca Katsopolis in the fifth and final season of ‘Fuller House’ (Netflix’s successful reboot of the ABC sitcom ‘Full House’), which the streaming giant will release this fall.
She is also part of the casts of the Hallmark Channel series ‘When Calls the Heart’, which is now airing its sixth season, and ‘Garage Sale Mystery’, which is in production. Representatives for Loughlin and Hallmark did not respond to The Times’ request for comment.
Loughlin’s daughter, Olivia Giannulli, made headlines last autumn when she shared her thoughts about going to college.
“I don’t know how much of school I’m gonna attend,” said the 19-year-old YouTube star, who goes by the name Olivia Jade online. “But I’m gonna go in and talk to my deans and everyone, and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying...I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.”
After being called “privileged,” “ignorant” and “spoiled” by commenters, she posted an apology video two days later.
“I said something super ignorant and stupid, basically. And it totally came across that I’m ungrateful for college — I’m going to a really nice school,” she said. “I’m really disappointed in myself.”