Actresses Huffman and Loughlin charged in college bribery case
Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin have been charged with at least 40 other people over a scheme in which wealthy parents allegedly bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centres to help get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country.
"These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege," prosecutor Andrew Lelling said in announcing the 25 million dollar (£19 million) federal bribery case.
Those charged included several sports coaches.
Prosecutors said parents paid an admissions consultant from 2011 until last month to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes, to alter test scores and to have others take online classes to boost their children's chances of getting into schools.
"For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected," Mr Lelling said.
The racketeering conspiracy charges were brought against coaches at schools including Wake Forest, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles.
Mr Lelling said it was the largest college admissions scam to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice.
A former Yale football coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.
Authorities said coaches in such sports as football, tennis and volleyball accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience.
The bribes allegedly came through an admissions consulting company in Newport Beach, California.
Authorities said parents paid the founder of the Edge College & Career Network approximately 25 million dollars to get their children into college.
Loughlin appeared in the sitcom Full House, and Huffman starred in Desperate Housewives. Both were charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.
The FBI said 13 defendants have been taken into custody in the Los Angeles area, including Huffman.
Officials said initial court appearances are planned later on Tuesday.
Loughlin was not taken into custody but her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was arrested at their home.
Court documents said Huffman paid 15,000 dollars (£11,000) disguised as a charitable donation.
Court papers said a co-operating witness met Huffman and her husband, actor William H Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained the scam to them.
The co-operator told investigators that Huffman and her spouse "agreed to the plan".