BOSTON — Felicity Huffman was silent and held her brother’s hand Monday as she arrived at federal court to become the highest-profile person so far to admit to taking part in a college admissions bribery scheme that has also ensnared prominent college coaches and figures from the business world.
Huffman, 56, arrived with her brother Moore Huffman Jr. She is expected to enter her guilty plea two months after she was arrested in the investigation named “Operation Varsity Blues” and accused of paying $15,000 to rig her daughter’s SAT score.
The case has put the career of the Emmy-winning star of “Desperate Housewives” in turmoil and laid bare the elite’s ability to influence the education system. Huffman is among 14 parents who have agreed to plead guilty to charges in what authorities have called it the biggest college admissions cheating scandal ever prosecuted in the U.S.
The parents are accused of paying an admissions consultant to bribe coaches in exchange for helping their children get into school as athletic recruits. The consultant, Rick Singer, also paid off entrance exam administrators to allow a proctor to take tests for students or fix their answers, authorities say.
Huffman paid Singer $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter’s SAT answers and considered going through with the scheme for her younger daughter before deciding not to, authorities say.
Investigators have said Huffman’s husband, 69-year-old “Shameless” actor William H. Macy, was with her when Singer explained how he could arrange for the cheating because he “controlled” a test center. Both Huffman and Macy agreed to plan, authorities say, but Macy has not been charged.
Prosecutors have not explained why.
Huffman has apologized and said her 18-year-old daughter was unaware 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 emailed statement last month.
Huffman has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Prosecutors have said they will seek between four and 10 months in prison. Because Huffman agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors have promised to recommend a sentence at the low end of that range, but the judge could also choose not to send her to prison.
Experts differ on the long-term impact the scandal will have on Huffman’s career.
After Huffman agreed to plead guilty, Netflix officials said a film starring her, “Otherhood,” would not be released as planned in April and a new date would be determined. A limited Netflix series featuring Huffman on the Central Park Five case is expected to debut this month.
Some parents have decided to fight the charges.
Fellow actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty to paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits even though neither of them is a rower.
Also scheduled to plead guilty Monday is Los Angeles businessman Devin Sloane, who authorities say paid $250,000 to get his son into USC as a fake water polo recruit.
Sloane, who founded a drinking and wastewater systems company, bought water polo gear online and worked with a graphic designer to create a bogus photo of his son playing the sport for the teen’s application, officials say.
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