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Felicity Huffman Officially Pleads Guilty in College Cheating Scandal


Actress Felicity Huffman, 56, pleaded guilty on Monday afternoon in Boston federal court to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The plea comes two months after she was arrested for her role in the college admission scandal law enforcement officials dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” in which Huffman paid $15,000 to a phony charity in order to facilitate her daughter’s cheating on the SATs.

The judge made sure that Huffman understood what she was getting herself into and accepted the former Desperate Housewives star’s guilty plea for her role in the college admissions scandal.

The college admissions scheme was led by William “Rick” Singer, who pleaded guilty to four charges including racketeering conspiracy March 12. Singer confessed to unlawfully helping children from numerous extremely affluent families cheat on standardized tests, also bribed a number of NCAA coaches to falsely designate the children as recruited athletes, thereby greatly lowering the minimum academic standard required for admission at prestigious schools such as Georgetown and Yale.

Huffman, whose spouse William H. Macy has not been indicted, is among fourteen parents who have agreed to plead guilty in the scam, which authorities have called the biggest college admissions cheating scandal ever prosecuted in the United States. Seventeen other parents, including actress Lori Loughlin of Full House fame and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty and plan to fight the charges.

Singer recorded a number of conversations in which he and wealthy parents discussed these schemes, including a conversation with Huffman. According to court documents, Huffman and Singer exchanged emails arranging how Singer could provide Huffman’s daughter with extra time to take the SATs and ensuring that her exam would be proctored by an administrator whom Singer had bribed. Under these conditions, Huffman’s daughter scored 1420 of her SATs, approximately 400 points higher than she scored a year earlier on her PSATs.

Huffman has already publicly apologized and stated that he daughter was not aware of her actions. “I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,” the actress said in an email last month.

Devin Sloane also pleaded guilty today. Authorities say Sloane paid $250,000 to get his son admitted to USC as a fake water polo recruit by purchasing the requisite equipment online and hiring a graphic designer to falsify photos of his son playing the sport for his USC application.

If Huffman is sentenced according to the lower end of the guidelines as expected, given her early acceptance of responsibility, she could around get four months behind bars. Sloane faces more prison time due to the amount of money involved in the fraud.

The judge will wait to sentence Huffman until she gets a PSR (pre-sentence report).

[Image via Paul Marotta/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.