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Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, others face $500-billion lawsuit in college admissions cheating scandal

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Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman are charged in connection with a widespread cheating scandal that’s ensnared elite colleges across the country.
(Los Angeles Times)

An Oakland woman filed a $500-billion class-action lawsuit this week against two Hollywood actresses and dozens of other wealthy parents accused of paying hefty sums to bribe college coaches or doctor exam scores to secure their children’s admission to elite universities.

Jennifer Kay Toy, who previously taught in the Oakland Unified School District, alleges in the lawsuit filed in San Francisco County Superior Court that the actions of those implicated in the scheme prevented her son, Joshua Toy, from being admitted to several colleges ensnared in the scandal.

She wrote in the filing that her son worked hard and graduated from high school with a 4.2 GPA but was still rejected from some of the colleges.

“Joshua and I beleived [sic] that he’d had a fair chance just like all other applicants but did not make the cut for some undisclosed reason,” she wrote in the lawsuit. “I’m now outraged and hurt because I feel that my son, my only child, was denied access to a college not because he failed to work and study hard enough but because wealthy individuals felt that it was ok to lie, cheat, steal and bribe their children’s way into a good college.”

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Actresses Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman and Loughlin’s husband, famed fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, along with dozens of other people charged in the criminal case, are named in the lawsuit. The court filing does not specify the colleges where her son applied or when he submitted his applications.

The lawsuit estimates that “due to the length and breadth of the cheating scam,” more than 1 million people have been affected.

The filing follows the revelation that celebrities, corporate executives, investment bankers, business owners, top-tier lawyers and even a bestselling author of parenting books allegedly participated in an audacious scheme to get their children into elite universities in the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted. Federal authorities on Tuesday announced 50 people had been charged for their alleged roles in the scheme.

This isn’t the first lawsuit to be filed in connection with the criminal probe. Two Stanford University students on Wednesday filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Stanford, USC, UCLA, the University of San Diego, the University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, Yale University and Georgetown University.

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The students allege the rigged system denied them a fair chance to matriculate at the elite institutions and could tarnish their degrees from Stanford.

The sweeping criminal investigation, which came to light earlier this week, alleges that wealthy parents from different parts of the country sought out Newport Beach businessman William Singer with one overriding goal: to get their children into the best colleges. Singer, who owns the admissions company called the Edge College & Career Network, said he had built a “side door” into USC and other highly sought-after universities and could help their children walk through.

In phone conversations with parents secretly recorded by agents, Singer boasted that in just two years, he had helped more than 850 students of the wealthy and powerful to lie their way into colleges. Authorities said that in some of the cases known to investigators, the children were aware of the con carried out on their behalf, but that others were kept in the dark by their parents.

Singer ran his ploy through Key Worldwide Foundation, a charity he started in 2012, prosecutors said in court papers. The organization’s mission was “to provide education that would normally be unattainable to underprivileged students,” according to paperwork.

In reality, Singer used the foundation to collect payments from parents and pay bribes, court records show. Because they were writing checks — or in at least one case, transferring stock in Facebook — to a charity, parents were able to write off their payments to Singer as tax deductions, authorities said.

hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @Hannahnfry

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