The college admissions scam involving Lori Loughlin and Felicity Hoffman shows how some rich families use a “side door” to game an already unfair education system.
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Actress Lori Loughlin, one of three Hollywood figures charged with paying bribes to get their children into elite colleges, appeared in court Wednesday and was released on a $1 million bail.
Her husband, She will be able to travel within the continental U.S. and British Columbia, a judge said. Loughlin is currently filming a project in Vancouver and has projects planned through the summer, according to her lawyer Mark Harris, who appeared in court with her. The actress was ordered to surrender her passport in December 2019, unless further ordered by the court.
Loughlin appeared in court wearing a white turtleneck and glasses. Before the hearing began, she sat motionless, staring forward, while waiting to be called by Judge Steve Kim. Once called, she affirmed that she understood her rights. “Yes,” she answered firmly.
But by the end of the roughly five-minute court appearance, Loughlin’s voice had weakened perceptibly. When asked if she understood that she’s not to talk to other defendants in the case, excluding her family, she gave a quiet, shaky “yes.”
Earlier Wednesday, the former “Aunt Becky” from TV’s “Full House” turned herself in at the courthouse and was arrested, according Thom Mrozek, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office Central District in Los Angeles. He said Loughlin had been out of the country and returned to L.A. late Tuesday.
Loughlin was supposed to be arrested Tuesday along with 38 other wealthy, prominent parents around the country, including “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman and Loughlin’s fashion-designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, whose Mossimo label has starred at Target for years.
Huffman was arrested by FBI agents early Tuesday at her Los Angeles home and taken downtown; by dinner she was released on $250,000 bail.
Giannulli was arrested at his and Loughlin’s home Tuesday and was released after posting $1 million bond following his court appearance.
The accused in the case have been organized into three groups by prosecutors, according to their participation in the alleged bribery scheme and how they were charged (federal indictment, information or criminal complaint). Their arraignments are scheduled on separate dates in March in Boston. The parents – a group of more than 30, including Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli – are scheduled to be arraigned on March 29.
The three are among 50 people who have been charged by federal prosecutors in Boston in connection with a sweeping $25 million scheme in which wealthy parents allegedly bribed college coaches and insiders at college testing centers to help get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country.
Loughlin, 54, and Giannulli, 55, are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, the couple allegedly agreed in July 2016 to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for getting their two daughters into the University of Southern California as purported crew athletes, even though neither were athletes and both were clueless about crew.
None of the children involved in the scheme were charged by federal prosecutors, and some of them had no idea what their parents allegedly were up to, according to investigators. But USC says it is considering whether to kick out students connected to the case.
For current students, which would include Loughlin’s daughters Isabella Rose and Olivia Jade, the university says it will “conduct a case-by-case review” of each student.
“We will make informed, appropriate decisions once those reviews have been completed. Some of these individuals may have been minors at the time of their application process,” said Gary Polakovic, a USC spokesman, in an emailed statement to USA TODAY.
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Upcoming students involved in the scandal will not be tolerated by USC. “Applicants in the current admissions cycle who are connected to the scheme alleged by the government will be denied admission to USC,” said Polakovic.
Huffman is charged (her husband, actor William H. Macy, was not charged, although he is mentioned as her “spouse” in the FBI affidavit) with a scheme to pay bribes to cheat on college entrance exams. Huffman made a $15,000 “donation” to a fake charity and in exchange, her daughter was able to take her SAT exam at a “controlled” testing center where a proctor would “secretly correct her answers afterwards,” according to prosecutors.
Contributing: Andrea Mandell
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