3rd UPDATE, 1:51 PM: Also caught up in today’s FBI charges is TPG Growth CEO and managing partner Bill McGlashan, a co-founder of STX Entertainment and Evolution Media. He also is a board member at CAA, in which TPG Growth’s parent company, TPG, bought a majority stake for $225 million in 2014. He made Vanity Fair‘s 2017 list of the 100 most influential people in business, politics and technology as CEO of the Rise Fund, a $2 billion impact-investment platform.
At least two other people with ties to the entertainment industry also have been indicted in the case: Jane Buckingham, founder and CEO of the Beverly Hills-based boutique marketing firm Trendera, and Elisabeth Kimmel, owner and president of Midwest Television, which sold the CBS-affiliated San Diego radio and TV outlets KFMB to Tenga last year. Kimmel also worked as a litigation associate at Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp, the law firm whose specialties include movie, TV and music deals.
McGlashan, Buckingham and Kimmel all are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
2nd UPDATE with more details, 12:30 PM: Felicity Huffman was arrested this morning by law enforcement for her involvement in a bribery scheme to get her and William H. Macy’s daughter into elite colleges.
When Calls the Heart co-star and Fuller House actress Lori Loughlin and her spouse, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, also are charged in the nationwide indictment.
Andrew Lelling, U.S. District Attorney of Massachusetts, called the case “the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.”
Get Shorty, American Crime and Desperate Housewives actor Huffman and Giannulli were taken into custody with 11 other Los Angeles locals today, I’ve learned, as a scathing indictment was unsealed in federal court in Boston. Huffman and the others are expected to appear in downtown L.A. court this afternoon on charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud.
Despite earlier indications, Loughlin — who also was a regular on such TV series as 90210, Summerland, Hudson Street and Full House — was not arrested this morning.
Among 33 parents and 17 others under indictment, the charges could see Huffman and Loughlin behind bars for up to five years.
PREVIOUSLY, 8:37 AM: (UPDATED with information from law enforcement press conference): Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin knowingly broke the law trying to get their kids into top-tier colleges, according to the FBI and the U.S Attorney’s office for the district of Massachusetts.
The Desperate Housewives and Fuller House actors were named among a group of 33 parents who paid millions in bribes to coaches at top schools like UCLA, USC, Yale Georgetown and Stanford, so their children could gain admission as recruited athletes – even if they weren’t actually athletes.
The other schools mentioned in the indictment are the University of San Diego, the University of Texas at Austin and Wake Forest University. In announcing the indictments, Andrew Lelling, U.S. District Attorney of Massachusetts, noted that, “The schools are not considered co-conspirators.” But some college coaches and one administrator — USC senior associate athletic director Dr. Donna Heinel — have been indicted.
The just-unsealed March 6 indictment (read it here) notes that with the exception of a single USC administrator, the schools themselves were not part of the $25 million scam run by the William Singer-topped Key Worldwide Foundation. Posing as “donations” from the parents, the money allegedly funded illegal activity at the nonprofit included hiring other individuals to write admission exams for the potential students and bribing officials to alter SAT and ACT test scores.
Singer pleaded guilty today to racketeering and other charges in the year-long elite “Operation Varsity Blues” bust. He was released on $500,000 bond and is set to be sentenced on June 19. A number of school coaches also were scheduled to enter guilty pleas.
“Today we have charged 33 parents nationwide,” Lelling said. “These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege. They include, for example, CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm.”
Officially, Huffman and Loughlin are being charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud, according to the unsealed indictment. It is unclear at this juncture whether the actors have officially been arrested, though warrants have been issued.
The charges hold as much as five years jail time. However, based on their past records or lack thereof, and what their lawyers will try to get in a plea deal, how much actual time behind bars Huffman and Loughlin could see in sentencing is unclear.
The 200-page indictment unsealed Tuesday said Huffman and William H. Macy, her husband and Shameless star, “made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter.” That fraud included paying an individual who “controlled” a Los Angeles SAT testing center to fix her daughter’s incorrect exam answers. That effort led to a massive increase in the daughter’s SAT score.
Noting that there are RICO Act obtained tape recordings of the actor participating in the scheme, the filing damningly goes on to note that “Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so.”
Macy has not been charged by the feds.
“This should be a warning to others, you can’t pay to play, you can’t lie and cheat to get ahead because you will get caught,” said the Boston FBI Special Agent Joseph Bonavolonta in a press conference this morning. U.S, Attorney Andrew Lelling called the matter a “conspiracy nationwide in scope” during the same media appearance.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” the federal prosecutor added. “They include, for example, CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm.”
“There are more than that, but I’m not prepared to give you a total,” Lelling said too of the ongoing investigation, noting “it remains to be seen whether we charge any of the students.”
Loughlin and her spouse Mossimo 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,” asserts the grand jury indictment.
Giannulli has been charged.
Reps for Huffman and Loughlin did not return request for comment. Huffman is next expected to be seen on screen in Netflix’s When They See Us. The four-part series formerly known as Central Park Five will be going global on the streamer May 31.
Netflix had no comment on the matter. Deadline also has reached to out When Calls the Heart network Hallmark Channel.
USC released this statement on the probe today:
We are aware of the ongoing wide-ranging criminal investigation involving universities nationwide, including USC. USC has not been accused of any wrongdoing and will continue to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation.
We understand that the government believes that illegal activity was carried out by individuals who went to great lengths to conceal their actions from the university. USC is conducting an internal investigation and will take employment actions as appropriate.
USC is in the process of identifying any funds received by the university in connection with this alleged scheme. Additionally, the university is reviewing its admissions processes broadly to ensure that such actions do not occur going forward.