LISTEN: US Attorney Details Latest in Massive College Bribery Scandal

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(KNX) - The FBI says actress Lori Loughlin has been taken into custody in connection with a scheme in which wealthy parents paid bribes to get their children into top colleges.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller says Loughlin is in custody Wednesday morning in Los Angeles. She is scheduled to appear in court there in the afternoon.

Prosecutors allege Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 to have their two daughters labeled as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, even though neither is a rower.

They were among 50 people charged in the scheme.

Loughlin became famous as the wholesome Aunt Becky in the 1980s and '90s sitcom "Full House." She has lately become the queen of the Hallmark channel with her holiday movies and the series "When Calls the Heart."

Her appearance delayed because she was filming in Vancouver. Loughlin and her husband are accused of a half a million dollar payoff to get their two daughters into USC. 

A large-scale scheme to cheat on college entrance exams and bribe college coaches has been busted by the FBI and federal prosecutors in Boston, according to court documents unsealed Tuesday.

Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Loughlin were charged along with at least 40 other people Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to help get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, prosecutors said.

Huffman was released after posting a $250,000 bail Tuesday afternoon.

"These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the $25 million federal bribery case.

Here is a list of defendants from the Justice Department:

https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/investigations-college-admissions-and-testing-bribery-scheme

Those charged included several athletic coaches.

The former head sailing coach at Stanford University has admitted to accepting bribes to help get students into school by pretending they were athletic recruits.

John Vandemoer was the second person to plead guilty Tuesday in the sweeping college admissions bribery scheme. He is charged with racketeering conspiracy.

Authorities say Vandemoer conspired with an admissions consultant to pretend two prospective students were competitive sailors in exchange for payments to the Stanford sailing program. Neither student ended up attending Stanford.

Stanford said Tuesday that Vandemoer has been fired.

The consultant, William "Rick" Singer, pleaded guilty earlier Tuesday.

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 alter test scores and to have others take online classes to boost their children's chances of getting into schools.

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

The racketeering conspiracy charges were brought against coaches at schools including Wake Forest, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles.

Lelling said it was the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

KNX is getting word from the US Attorney's office in L.A. that 13 defendants have been taken into custody this morning in the Los Angeles area, and they'll be in court this afternoon.

UCLA

UCLA soccer coach Jorge Salcedo has been placed on leave pending a review and will have no involvement with the team. UCLA says in a statement it's a "potential victim of a fraudulent scheme" but that it's not aware of any student-athletes who are under suspicion.

USC

USC Interim President Wanda M. Austin has posted a public letter regarding this investigation:

"At this time, we have no reason to believe that Admissions employees or senior administrators were aware of the scheme or took part in any wrongdoing—and we believe the government concurs in that assessment.  The government has repeatedly informed us that it views USC as a victim and that these employees purposefully deceived USC."

USC released a statement Tuesday morning after four coaches were named in the college admission fraud investigation:

"We are aware of the ongoing wide-ranging criminal investigation involving universities nationwide, including USC. USC has not been accused of any wrongdoing. [We> 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.' "

A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.

Authorities said coaches in such sports as soccer, tennis and volleyball accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience.

The bribes allegedly came through an admissions consulting company in Newport Beach, California. Authorities said parents paid the founder of the Edge College & Career Network approximately $25 million to get their children into college.

Loughlin appeared in the ABC sitcom "Full House," and Huffman starred in ABC's "Desperate Housewives." Both were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Court documents said Huffman paid $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation, so her daughter could partake in the college entrance cheating scam.

Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Huffman and her husband, actor William H. Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained the scam to them. The cooperator told investigators that Huffman and her spouse "agreed to the plan."

Messages seeking comment with representatives for Huffman and Loughlin were not immediately returned.

The US District Attorney's Office in Boston held a press conference Tuesday about the scandal.

The FBI says there's no indication that individual schools did anything wrong.

The alleged scheme focused on getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams, according to the indictment.

-AP and KNX 1070

 

 

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