Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and others are reportedly being steered towards a plea deal.
Huffman is one of 33 parents charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in connection with their alleged attempts to bribe their children’s way into college. Huffman’s actor husband William H. Macy was mentioned in the report but was not named, and he has not been charged.
Huffman was previously subjected to the same gunpoint treatment by the FBI that Roger Stone complained about when he was arrested. Huffman was taken into custody at about 6:00 a.m. local time when FBI agents showed up at her California home with guns drawn. After her arrest, Huffman appeared in court and was set free after posting $250,000 bail. Although Huffman is expected to appear in court in Boston on March 29, April 3 is being heralded as a more significant date.
Huffman, fellow actress Lori Loughlin, Loughlin’s fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli and others are scheduled to appear in court. The former Full House star and her husband allegedly created fake rowing profiles to get their daughters Isabella and Olivia into USC.
The couple allegedly “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the [University of Southern California (USC)] crew team–despite the fact that they did not participate in crew–thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
In each case, they allegedly took photos of their daughters on rowing machines to make it appear as if they were, in fact, rowers, and submitted this images as part of fake athletic profiles.
The Los Angeles Times is reporting that federal prosecutors are going to attempt to secure their cooperation through plea agreements. That’s how the whole investigation started.
The feds flipped William “Rick” Singer and went all around the country over the phone to records conversations with unwitting clients. In many cases, Singer warned individuals that the IRS was auditing his organization and that they needed to get their stories straight about the reason for their payments. What authorities say were bribes, those charged agreed to say, in some cases, that the donations were to help “underserved kids.”
It’s not clear how long the defendants will have to consider plea deals, nor is it clear if the deals will take jail time off the table. Either way, you can expect hefty fines. The Los Angeles Times cited a source that described the time to consider a deal as a “short window.” Complicating the matter is the possibility that federal prosecutors may explore additional charges, given the high-profile nature of the case.
Also of note is Huffman’s attorney situation. Though she had previously hired Blair Berk, attorney Marty Murphy is taking over since the jurisdiction of the case is Boston-based. Although a plea deal would require an admission of guilt, it may yield lesser punishment.
Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation, the organization allegedly at the center of the scam, in exchange for them doctoring her daughter’s SAT exam to make sure she got a high score. Huffman’s daughter reportedly ended up with a score of 1420, which was 400 points higher than what she got on the PSAT exam.
According to the 204-page complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, “Huffman and her spouse made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 to [William “Rick” Singer]’s charity [The Key Worldwide Foundation] to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her oldest daughter. Huffman later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so.”
Sources told TMZ that Huffman was expecting an arrest and would have surrendered herself to authorities. The FBI opted to pick her up at her home instead. A representative from the FBI told the Times that they did not use a tactical team for her arrest, but noted that “all FBI agents are armed and may draw their weapons as a precautionary measured based on the circumstances during the execution of any warrant.”
Colin Kalmbacher contributed to this report.
[Images via Lisa O’Connor, Tommaso Boddi/AFP/Getty Images]