What to Know
- More than 40 people were arrested as part of a nationwide college entrance exam investigation
- College coaches accepted bribes in exchange for admitting students as athletes, regardless of their ability, prosecutors say
- Prosecutors allege that fake athletic profiles were also made to make students look like strong high school athletes
Thirteen people with ties to Los Angeles, its entertainment industry, UCLA and USC were among more than 50 people charged Tuesday in a sweeping college entrance exam scheme that involved wealthy parents and elite universities.
The defendants, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, were taken into custody in Los Angeles as part of an investigation called Operation Varsity Blues, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. They are accused in a plot to get students admitted to elite universities, such as Standford, USC and UCLA, and helping potential students cheat on their entrance exams.
USC Senior Associate Athletic Director Donna Heinel, a Trojan water polo coach and UCLA men's soccer coach also were named as defendants in the nationwide college admissions and testing bribery scheme. Heinel and USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic were charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, as was Bruins' soccer coach Salcedo.
"Desperate Housewives" star Huffman was arrested at her home. She later made her first appearance at a downtown Los Angeles courtroom where bail was set at $250,000. It was expected to be paid and signed in court by her husband, actor William H. Macy. She was ordered to appear in federal court in Boston on March 29.
An arrest warrant was issued to Loughlin. The "Full House" star was out of the country for working Tuesday when agents arrived at her home, according to a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation. She was expected to surrender later Tuesday.
The 13 people arrested in LA are expected to appear in court Tuesday afternoon, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. The founder of a Southern California-based admissions consulting company pleaded guilty to running the bribery scheme. William "Rick" Singer, of Newport Beach, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said the colleges are not considered co-conspirators and the schools are not charged.
In a statement, USC said it is conducting an internal investigation and will take employment actions as appropriate.
"The federal government has alleged that USC is a victim in a scheme perpetrated against the university by a long-time Athletics Department employee, one current coach and three former coaching staff, who were allegedly involved in a college admissions scheme and have been charged by the government on multiple charges," said interim USC President Wanda Austin. "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."
UCLA men's soccer coach Jorge Salcedo was placed on leave and will have no involvement with the team until the case is reviewed, UCLA said in a statement. He allegedly helped get two applicants who did not play competitive soccer into UCLA in exchange for $100,000 in 2016 and 2018.
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"The conduct alleged in the filings revealed today is deeply disturbing and in contrast with the expectations we have of our coaches to lead their teams with honesty and integrity," the school's statement continued. "If the facts alleged are true, they represent a grave departure from the ethical standards we set for ourselves and the people who work here.
"UCLA is not aware of any current student-athletes who are under suspicion."
Nine coaches at elite schools were part of the scheme, according to investigators.
The coaches allegedly accepted bribes in exchange for admitting students as athletes, regardless of their ability, according to federal prosecutors in Massachusetts. Prosecutors said parents paid an admissions consultant $25 million from 2011 through February 2019 to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes to boost their chances of getting into schools.
Prosecutors allege that fake athletic profiles were also made to make students look like strong high school athletes when they actually weren't.
The consulting company also bribed administrators of college entrance exams to allow a Florida man to take the tests on behalf of students or replace their answers with his, according to investigators.