US & World

Felicity Huffman: Desperate Housewives star charged in exam cheating scheme

US actresses Felicity Huffman (L) and Lori LoughlinImage copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Actresses Felicity Huffman (L) and Lori Loughlin are among those charged

Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman is among at least 40 people charged in a US college cheating scam, according to unsealed court records.

The alleged scheme involved helping students cheat on entrance exams, as well as getting non-athletic students admitted on athletic scholarships.

According to the documents, elite schools Yale, Stanford, and Georgetown were among the destination schools.

There was no suggestion that the schools were involved in wrongdoing.

According to the charging documents, Ms Huffman was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She was secretly recorded discussing the scheme with a co-operating witness.

The actress Lori Loughlin, best known for starring in US sitcom Full House, was also indicted.

How did the alleged scheme work?

The documents set out in detail the various elements of the alleged scheme run by a firm called Edge College & Career Network.

Parents including Ms Huffman and Ms Loughlin paid between $200,000 (£153,000) and $6.5m to Edge for its services, authorities said.

The firm reportedly instructed parents to claim their child had a disability which required extra time for exams. The FBI said parents were then told to invent an excuse – such as a family wedding – for their students to sit the entrance exams at specific facilities, where staff had been bribed to turn a blind eye to cheating.

Someone working for the firm involved in the scandal either sat the exam for the students, gave them the answers, or corrected their answer papers, the FBI said. In most cases, the students did not know their admission had been paid for with a bribe, officials said.

The firm also allegedly created detailed fake athletic profiles for students – including photo-shopping the faces of potential students on to pictures of athletes found online – allowing students to be recruited on athletic scholarships.

Federal prosecutors in Boston charged William “Rick” Singer, 58, with running the racketeering scheme through Edge College & Career Network.

Mr Singer is expected to plead guilty on Tuesday in Boston federal court to charges including racketeering, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.

Andrew Lelling, the US attorney for the District of Massachusetts, laid out the scheme in a press conference on Tuesday.

“We are not talking about donating a building that will make it more likely for your child to get accepted, we’re talking about deception and fraud,” he said.

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