Nearly 50 people have been charged in a massive college entrance exam cheating and bribery plot, according the Federal Bureau of Investigations, including a number of high-profile CEOs, and Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
NBC News reports that the bust, code-named "Operation Varsity Blues," netted parents, school administrators, coaches at both the high school and college levels, and standardized test administrators, who engaged in the practices of "getting students admitted to elite universities as recruited athletes, regardless of their athletic abilities, and helping potential students cheat on their college exams."
In all, 33 parents -- including Loughlin and Huffman -- allegedly paid a collective sum of $25 million to a college admissions counselor named William Singer, according to ABC News, who then "bribed college officials, coaches and college entrance exam administrators, who then helped students secure admissions 'not on their merits but through fraud.'"
The FBI contends that Singer's bribes went to officials at some of the most elite colleges in the country, including Yale, Stanford, UCLA, Georgetown, the University of San Diego, Wake Forest, the University of Texas, and the University of Southern California, and to college entrance exams administrators for both the SAT and ACT.
In one case, " the head women's soccer coach at Yale was paid $400,000 to accept a student even though the applicant did not play soccer. The parents of that student had allegedly paid Singer $1.2 million."
In other cases, Singer allegedly facilitated cheating on college entrace exams, asking parents to pay between $15,000 and $75,000 to have other students take the SATs and ACTs in place of their children. Once he received the money, the FBI contends, Singer allegedly used a professional test taker to either pose as the students, "provid[e] students with answers during the exams." or "correct their answers after they had completed the exams."
Huffman herself is accused of giving a "purported charitable donation" of $15,000 to Singer in order to get her eldest daughter into an elite college. She and he husband, actor William H. Macy (referred to in the complaint only as "spouse"), also allegedly connected with Singer a second time to begin facilitating college admissions for their younger daughter, but eventually pulled out of the project.
Loughlin is in somewhat deeper, charging documents allege, having "agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team -- despite the fact that they did not participate in crew -- thereby facilitating their admission to USC."
Loughlin's daughter, YouTube "star" Olivia Jade, made waves last August after graduating from an "elite private school" in Los Angeles, according to Yahoo News, and ageeing to pursue higher education, but with plans to experience "game days" and "partying," rather than academics because, "I don’t really care about school, as you guys all know.” She later apologized for the video.
The two actresses were caught on wiretaps according to the complaint, and "both were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud." They were arrested Tuesday "without incident," according to ABC.
Neither the students nor the schools themselves have been charged with any wrongdoing, only a handful of administrators whom the FBI says took the bribes directly. In some cases, the FBI's complaint alleges, the students were completely unaware that they were being afforded special privileges that their parents had paid for.