Actress Lori Loughlin in custody over university admissions 'scam'
Actress Lori Loughlin has been taken into custody in connection with an alleged $25m (£18.9m) university bribing scheme in the US.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said Loughlin was held in Los Angeles this morning and is due to appear in court later today.
The Full House actress, along with Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman and dozens of other parents, is accused of being involved in a scheme which saw bribes paid to help get teenagers into some of the most elite universities in the country, including Stanford and Yale.
Prosecutors allege Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 (£378,000) to have their two daughters labelled as recruits to the University Of Southern California (USC) crew team, even though neither is a rower.
Their 19-year-old daughter Olivia Jade, a prominent social media star with almost two million subscribers on YouTube, is now at USC.
Earlier today, the FBI said Loughlin had been expected to hand herself in. Court records show a warrant for her arrest was issued.
Huffman and Gianulli have both appeared in court in LA and told to surrender their passports. Huffman was released on $250,000 (£191,000) bail, while Giannulli’s was set at $1m (£760,000).
According to court documents, Huffman paid $15,000 (£11,000) disguised as a charitable donation so that her daughter could take part in an entrance exam cheating scam.
The documents say a co-operating witness met with Huffman and her husband Macy at their home in LA, the AP news agency reports.
Macy, who attended his wife’s hearing, has not been charged, but authorities have not said why.
More than 40 people have been charged over the alleged scam, in which wealthy parents are said to have paid bribes to help get their children into America’s top universities.
Authorities have called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the US Justice Department..
No students have been charged, with officials saying that in many cases the teenagers were unaware of what was going on.
Admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer, founder of the Edge College & Career Network of Newport Beach, California, is said to be the mastermind of the alleged scam.
He has pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice, with lawyer Donald Heller saying he intends to co-operate fully with prosecutors and is “remorseful and contrite and wants to move on with his life”.
At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents – many of them prominent in law, finance, fashion, food and acting – have been charged.
Prosecutors say parents paid Singer huge amounts, from 2011 until last month, to bribe coaches and administrators to falsely make their children look like star athletes to boost their chances of getting accepted.
Athletic credentials were falsified with the help of staged photographs of them playing sports, or doctored photos in which their faces were pasted on to the bodies of genuine athletes, authorities said.
Singer is also said to have hired ringers to take college entrance exams for students, and paid off insiders at testing centres to correct students’ answers.
Some parents spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and some as much as $6.5m (£5m) to guarantee their children’s admission, officials say.
Prosecutor Andrew Lelling described the investigation, code-named Operation Varsity Blues, as highlighting “a catalogue of wealth and privilege”.
Others accused of being involved include the former head of financial firm Pimco, Douglas Hodge, and Manuel Henriquez, who has now resigned as chief executive officer of finance company Hercules Capital.
Hodge is due to be arraigned at a federal court in Boston later today.
Other prominent parents charged by the Boston US attorney’s office include Gordon Caplan, the co-chairman of international law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher, and Bill McGlashan Jr, who heads a buyout investment arm of private equity firm TPG Capital.
Several of the coaches accused of accepting bribes have been fired, placed on leave or have resigned.
A representative for Loughlin said she had no comment at this time.
Sky News has contacted representatives for Huffman for comment. Representatives of other accused parents have either declined to comment or have not responded to inquiries by the Reuters news agency.
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