WASHINGTON — Actress Felicity Huffman will plead guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in the college acceptance scheme that has rocked Hollywood, federal authorities said Monday.
Huffman is among 13 parents who, along with one college athletic coach, have agreed to plead guilty to using bribery or fraud to get their children into elite colleges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts said in a statement. All are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
A total of 50 people were charged last month in the federal investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, authorities said.
Huffman admitting paying at least $15,000 to consultant William “Rick” Singer’s nonprofit organization to get her oldest daughter’s results on the ACT standardized test changed to increase her odds of acceptance into the University of Southern California, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Authorities say Singer, who has pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy for assisting Huffman and numerous other wealthy parents with college admissions, met with the actress and her husband, actor William H. Macy at their Los Angeles home. Singer told investigators that both parents agreed to the scheme. It is not clear why Macy was not charged.
Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among a total of nearly three dozen parents charged in the admissions scheme. The couple was charged with paying the crew coach at USC $500,000 to recruit their two daughters, even though neither rowed. The couple was not on the list of parents who have negotiated plea agreements with federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston, which is overseeing the investigation, and have not commented on the charges.
Several other athletic coaches have been charged with accepting bribes to get students accepted. Some of the coaches have pleaded guilty, while others are fighting the charges along with other parents.
Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli were among several defendants in the scheme who appeared in federal court in Boston on Wednesday for a hearing.
Huffman released a statement Monday expressing “deep regret and shame” for her actions, which she said her daughter knew nothing about. The actress apologized to her “daughter, family, friends, colleagues and the educational community.”
Huffman also apologized to “the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children, and do so honestly.”
The actress and the other defendants who will plead guilty face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of at least $250,000. But the U.S. attorney’s statement said the office will recommend a jail term at the low end of the sentencing ranges and a fine of $20,000 for Huffman. It is not clear if the same is true for the others.
None of the plea hearings has been scheduled yet.