BOSTON (REUTERS) - A US judge on Wednesday (April 3) told parents charged in the largest college admissions scandal in US history, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, to limit their international travel and remove any guns from their homes as they await trial.
The actresses were among 13 wealthy parents who made their first appearances in Boston federal court on Wednesday to face charges of taking part in schemes that involved cheating on college entrance exams and paying US$25 million (S$33 million) in bribes to buy their children spots at well-known universities including Yale University and the University of Southern California (USC).
US Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley warned parents to consult their lawyers about the potential for being charged with obstructing an investigation by discussing the case with their children, who prosecutors consider potential witnesses.
But she said she would not restrict the parents from doing so, as prosecutors had wanted, saying: “I just don’t think that’s realistic.”
Prosecutors have been holding plea talks with some 33 parents charged in the scheme.
On Wednesday, packaged food entrepreneur Peter Sartorio became the first to reveal he plans to plead guilty. Two others said they were also in plea talks.
Prosecutors say the scheme was overseen by California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer, who has admitted to facilitating the cheating scam and bribing coaches to present the parents’ children as fake athletic recruits.
Desperate Housewives star Huffman and Full House actress Loughlin each told the court that they understood the charges they faced but otherwise said little.
Loughlin walked into the courthouse past a group fans yelling, “Lori, we love you.”
Prosecutors allege that Loughlin and her husband, Los Angeles fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to pay US$500,000 to have their two daughters named as recruits to USC’s crew team, even though they did not row competitively.
Huffman, who is married to the actor William H. Macy, is accused of making a US$15,000 contribution to Singer’s foundation in exchange for having an associate of Singer’s in 2017 secretly correct her daughter’s answers on an SAT college entrance exam at a test center prosecutors say Singer “controlled.”
Huffman later made arrangements to engage in the scheme again on her younger daughter’s behalf before deciding not to, prosecutors said.
Other accused parents expected to appear in court include Manuel Henriquez, the former chief executive of specialty finance company Hercules Capital, and Gordon Caplan, the former co-chairman of the law firm Willkie Farr & Gallagher.
Henriquez resigned his position and Caplan was placed on leave after they were charged.