Actress Felicity Huffman and a dozen other parents involved in the massive college admissions cheating scandal will plead guilty to bribery and fraud, authorities announced Monday.
The 13 parents are among nearly 50 people charged last month in the scheme authorities have called the “largest college admissions scam prosecuted by the Justice Department.”
Prosecutors alleged these parents paid admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer, 58, more than $25 million total to rig test scores, cheat on SAT exams, and bribe college coaches, all with the goal of getting their children into elite universities, including the University of Southern California, Georgetown, Stanford, and Yale. Singer pleaded guilty in Boston court last month to charges including racketeering, conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.
The scheme occurred unbeknownst to many of the parents’ children and sent shock waves through the higher-education world.
“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,” Huffman said in a Monday statement. “I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community.I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college.”
Huffman, a 56-year-old Emmy Award-winning actress, “agreed to pay Singer at least $15,000 to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme for her oldest daughter,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Monday.
The payment—which was made out to Key Worldwide Foundation, a non-profit organization run by Singer—ultimately enabled the actress’ daughter to end up with a SAT score of 1420, a 400-point bump from her previous score. Huffman's husband, fellow Emmy-winning actor William H. Macy, was not named in the complaint. She will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way I have betrayed her,” Huffman said on Monday, less than a week after she appeared in Boston federal court. “This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty.”
According to Huffman’s plea agreement, prosecutors will seek a four to 10-month prison sentence. Her defense is pushing for a maximum sentence of six months.
Top lawyer Gordon Caplan, who allegedly paid $75,000 to fake his daughter’s learning disability to help her get a better score on a college entrance exam, was also named among the parents who plan to plead guilty.
“I take full and sole responsibility for my conduct and I am deeply ashamed of my behavior and my actions,” the former lawyer said in a Friday statement obtained by The Daily Beast. “I apologize not only to my family, friends, colleagues, and the legal Bar, but also to students everywhere who have been accepted to college through their own hard work.”
In addition to the TV star and dozen other parents who are prepared to plead guilty, the U.S. Attorney’s Office on Monday announced charges against two additional parents: Bruce and Davina Isackson.
The California couple “have both agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud,” after allegedly paying $600,000 in Facebook stock to get one daughter into UCLA and another into USC, the affidavit states.
“Thanks for the follow up call regarding the attacked Key Worldwide Foundation involve. Per our discussion can you please send me an email confirming that if [our daughter] is not admitted to UCLA as a freshman for the Fall 2016 class that The Key Worldwide Foundation will refund our $250,000 gift,” Bruce e-mailed Singer on July 11, 2016, according to the affidavit. “Again, both Davina and I are greatly appreciative of all your efforts on [our daughter]’s behalf!”
The 61-year-old father, who also allegedly conspired with Singer to get his younger daughter into USC as a rowing recruit, will also plead guilty to money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the IRS. His daughter, who was not named in the affidavit, was not competitive in rowing, “but instead an avid equestrian.”
“No words can express how profoundly sorry we are for what we have done,” the Isacksons said in a statement obtained by The Daily Beast on Monday. “Our duty as parents was to set a good example for our children and instead we have harmed and embarrassed them by our misguided decisions. We have also let down our family, friends, colleagues and our entire community. We have worked cooperatively with the prosecutors and will continue to do so as we take full responsibility for our bad judgment.”