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TV stars and coaches charged in college bribery scheme

Published:Wednesday | March 13, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Boston (AP):

Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged, along with nearly 50 other people, yesterday in a scheme in which wealthy parents bribed college coaches and other insiders to get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said.

Authorities called it the biggest college-admissions scam ever prosecuted by the US Justice Department.

“These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege,” US Attorney Andrew Lelling said, in announcing the $25-million bribery case, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, against 50 people in all.

The scandal is certain to inflame long-standing complaints that children of the wealthy and well-connected have the inside track in college admissions — sometimes through big, timely donations from their parents — and that privilege begets privilege.

At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents, many of them prominent in law, finance or business, were among those charged in the investigation. Dozens, including Huffman, were arrested yesterday.

The coaches worked at such schools as Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.

Prosecutors said parents paid an admissions consultant from 2011 through last month to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as ‘recruited athletes’ to boost their chances of getting into college. The consultant also hired ringers to take college entrance exams, and paid off insiders at testing centres to alter students’ scores.

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their children’s admission, officials said.

“For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected,” Lelling said.

He said the investigation is continuing and authorities believe other parents were involved. The schools themselves are not targets of the investigation, he said.

No students were charged. Authorities said that in many cases, the teenagers were not aware of the fraud.

Authorities said coaches in such sports as soccer, sailing, tennis, water polo and volleyball accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience. That, in turn, boosted the students’ chances of admission.