College admissions scandal: Felicity Huffman reports to prison to serve 14-day sentence

Felicity Huffman leaves court in Boston in April.
(Joseph Prezioso / AFP-Getty Images)

Felicity Huffman on Tuesday reported to a federal prison in Northern California, where she will spend two weeks behind bars for conspiring to rig her daughter’s college entrance exams.

Huffman, 56, will serve her sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, a low-security facility in Alameda County that houses about 1,200 female inmates, according to a statement from Huffman’s representative.

Upon her release, Huffman must perform 250 hours of community service and remain on supervised release for one year.


College admissions scandal
The entrance to Camp Parks, which houses the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

The award-winning actress was arrested in March and pleaded guilty two months later to fraud conspiracy, admitting she paid $15,000 to William “Rick” Singer, a Newport Beach consultant who orchestrated an elaborate college admissions fraud, to fix her daughter’s SAT score.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani in September chose to incarcerate Huffman, despite Huffman’s explanation that she believed she was trying to be “a good mother” when she conspired to fix her daughter’s SAT score.

In a letter to the judge, Huffman said she came to view her daughter’s struggles on the math section of the SAT as “a huge obstacle” to her acting dreams. When Singer told her he could “make sure she gets the score she needs,” she said, “I honestly began to feel that maybe I would be a bad mother if I didn’t do what Mr. Singer was suggesting.”

Huffman’s daughter took her SAT in 2017 at a private school in West Hollywood. Unbeknownst to her, Huffman and prosecutors say, Singer had paid an administrator to let Mark Riddell, Singer’s Harvard-educated accomplice, correct the girl’s answers after she finished her test.

The Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif.
(Paul Chinn / Associated Press)

Singer and Riddell have pleaded guilty to a number of felonies. The testing center administrator, Igor Dvorskiy, said earlier this month he would plead guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering.

“In my desperation to be a good mother,” Huffman said, “I talked myself into believing that all I was doing was giving my daughter a fair shot.”

Talwani was unconvinced. “Trying to be a good mother doesn’t excuse this,” she said in court.

Huffman, the judge noted, could offer her children legitimate advantages that many families cannot: a comfortable upbringing, tutoring, a private college counselor, connections in the industry her daughter hoped to break into.

And yet, Talwani told Huffman, “you took the step of obtaining one more advantage to put your child ahead of theirs.”

Over the objections of Huffman’s attorneys, who had asked she be spared prison and punished instead with community service and a fine, Talwani committed Huffman to prison.

The Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif.
The Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, Calif. A representative for Felicity Huffman on Tuesday says the actress has reported to the federal prison to serve a two-week sentence in the college admissions scandal.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press )

Absent a prison sentence, Talwani told Huffman, “You would be looking at a future with the community around you asking why you had gotten away with this.”

Of the eight parents sentenced so far in the admissions scandal, just one — Peter Jan Sartorio, a Menlo Park, Calif., frozen foods entrepreneur — has been spared prison. Sartorio, like Huffman, paid Singer $15,000 to doctor his daughter’s college entrance exams.

Fifteen parents have admitted their guilt in the case. An additional 19 have pleaded not guilty, a group that includes Lori Loughlin, a television actress, and her husband, J. Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer.

An additional parent, Xiaoning Sui, was arrested in September and has yet to enter a plea. Federal prosecutors in Boston are seeking the extradition of Sui, a Chinese national who was apprehended in Spain.

Sui paid Singer $400,000 to secure her son’s admission to UCLA as a recruited soccer player with a scholarship that would have covered 25% of his tuition, despite the boy not playing the sport competitively, prosecutors say.