The federal investigation into a massive cheating scandal in which prominent actors and business leaders got their children into elite universities included seeking records from several prominent Southern California prep schools, according to two sources familiar with the probe.
The sources did not name the schools but said they are some of the most well-known private institutions in the area. They said federal authorities issued subpoenas for records involving some of the students involved in the fraud case.
One source with knowledge of the investigation stressed that officials are not at this point accusing the schools of wrongdoing but rather seeking information about student performance and other details.
The scheme, which began in 2011, centered around the owner of a for-profit Newport Beach college admissions company that wealthy parents paid to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and to falsify athletic records of students to enable them to secure admission to elite schools, including UCLA, USC, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown, according to court records.
Fifty people, across academia and college sports as well as a cadre of super-wealthy parents, have been charged in what prosecutors say is the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted. Some parents participated in one aspect of the scheme, while others paid for both, stealing slots from hard-working students with legitimate grades and test scores, authorities said.
“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” said U.S. Atty. Andrew Lelling. He said they “knowingly conspired … to help their children cheat or buy their children admission to elite schools through fraud.”
Among those charged were Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
Huffman is in custody in Los Angeles, along with 11 others. The Oscar nominee and Golden Globe winner was taken into custody at 6 a.m. after FBI agents knocked on the door of her Los Angeles home and informed her of the charges. She was handcuffed and taken to a federal jail in downtown Los Angeles.
Loughlin has not been arrested, but she’s being sought by authorities, according to FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller. Law enforcement sources told The Times she was flying to Los Angeles to surrender.
Loughlin, of “Full House” fame, and Huffman, whose credits include the hit ABC show “Desperate Housewives,” are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. According to court records, Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, the famous creator of clothing brand Mossimo, “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team” even though they did not participate in crew.
Huffman is accused of disguising a $15,000 charitable payment in the bribery scheme, according to court records. Prosecutors alleged Huffman met with a confidential witness who explained that he could control an SAT testing center and could arrange for someone to proctor her daughter’s test and correct it. Huffman’s daughter allegedly took the test in December 2017 and received a score of 1420. That was a 400-point improvement from her first test. In October 2018, Huffman was recorded by the FBI discussing participating in the same scheme for her younger daughter; however, she did not ultimately pursue it.
Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co., was also indicted in connection with his alleged participation in the scheme. Prosecutors alleged Hodge used bribery to get his children admitted to USC and Georgetown as purported athletic recruits. When Hodge’s daughter applied to Georgetown in 2008, her application indicated that she had won multiple United States U.S. Tennis Assn. tournaments. Association records, however, indicated she had never played a USTA match, according to court records.
Jane Buckingham, a consumer trends expert and author of “The Modern Girl’s Guide to Life” parenting book series, was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.