Full House actress Lori Loughlin has been released on $US1 million ($1.4 million) bail after being charged with helping her daughters cheat their way into a high-profile California university.
- Ms Loughlin allegedly paid $US500,000 to help her daughters cheat their way into USC
- Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman and several high-profile businessmen are among dozens charged
- After months of having his calls wiretapped, the scheme’s mastermind pleaded guilty
Ms Loughlin appeared in federal court in Los Angeles on Wednesday (local time) to face charges of taking part in a scheme in which dozens of wealthy parents — including several from the entertainment and business worlds — are accused of paying for their children to win entry into prestigious US universities.
Magistrate Steve Kim ordered Ms Loughlin to be released from federal custody on bail following a brief hearing.
Douglas Hodge — the former chief executive of investment firm Pimco, and another of the 33 parents charged in the $US25 million scam — appeared earlier in the day in a Boston court.
He was released on $US500,000 bail by a federal magistrate who overruled a federal prosecutor’s objection to Mr Hodge keeping his passport.
The Los Angeles judge ruled Ms Loughlin could continue travelling to and from the Canadian province of British Columbia for a number of productions she is working on as long as she notifies US authorities in advance of each trip.
But the TV star was ordered to relinquish her passport by December.
Fifty people charged
Ms Loughlin and Mr Hodge are among 50 people charged with taking part in a scam that steered graduating high school students into elite universities, including Yale, Georgetown and Stanford, by cheating the admissions process.
Prosecutors called it the largest such scandal in US history.
Other notable parents charged by the Boston US attorney’s office include actress Felicity Huffman, who starred in Desperate Housewives; and Bill McGlashan Jr, who headed a buyout investment arm of private equity firm TPG Capital, which put him on indefinite leave after he was charged.
Ms Huffman was one of several charged who appeared in court on Tuesday before being released on bail.
University of Southern California (USC) interim president Wanda Austin issued a statement saying anyone involved who applied for the upcoming academic year would be denied admission, while current students implicated in the scheme would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
USC earlier said two employees — a senior associate athletic director and women’s water polo coach — were fired in connection with the scandal.
Another parent charged in the scheme, Manuel Henriquez, resigned as chief executive officer of the finance company Hercules Capital Inc, the company said early on Wednesday.
Gordon Caplan, who prosecutors said paid $US75,000 last year to have some of his daughter’s wrong answers corrected on a college entrance exam, was placed on leave from his post as co-chairman of the global law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, the company said on Wednesday.
Loughlin’s daughters passed off as rowers
Olivia Jade IG post
Ms Loughlin is accused of paying the mastermind of the scheme, William ‘Rick’ Singer, $US500,000 to help both of her daughters cheat their way into USC by bribing an athletics official at the school to pretend the girls were gifted rowers.
Her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, is also charged with fraud, and appeared in court in Los Angeles on Tuesday before being released on $US1 million bail.
One of the daughters, Olivia Giannulli, has become a prominent “influencer” on social media under the name “Olivia Jade”.
“Officially a college student!” she captioned an Instagram photograph she posted in September, which showed her in her USC dorm room decorated with items she had ordered from online retailer Amazon.com Inc, which paid her for the post.
Months of wiretaps
Singer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to racketeering charges.
Prosecutors in the US attorney’s office in Boston said his company, Edge College & Career Network, made $US25 million since embarking on the fraud in 2011, offering what he promised was a “guarantee” of admission.
After months of having his calls wiretapped, Singer ended up cooperating with investigators last September, helping them secretly record incriminating conversations he had with parents.
The elaborate scheme involved bribing the administrators of college entrance tests to allow a child’s wrong answers to be corrected or for someone else to take the test in their place.
Singer also arranged for parents to bribe university coaches to attest to a child being athletically gifted.
Representatives of accused parents either declined to comment or did not respond to inquiries. Several of the coaches accused of accepting bribes have been fired, placed on leave or have resigned.