NEW YORK • In a major college admissions scandal that laid bare the lengths some wealthy parents will go to get their children into competitive American universities, federal prosecutors have charged 50 people in a scheme to buy spots in the freshman classes at Yale, Stanford and other big-name schools.
Thirty-three well-heeled parents, including Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders, were charged in the case on Tuesday.
Prosecutors said there could be additional indictments to come.
Also implicated were top college athletic coaches, who were accused of accepting millions of dollars to help admit undeserving students to a wide variety of colleges, by suggesting they were top athletes.
The parents included TV star Lori Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli; actress Felicity Huffman; and William McGlashan Jr, a partner at private equity firm TPG Growth, the officials said.
The scheme unveiled on Tuesday was the United States Justice Department's largest-ever college admissions prosecution, an investigation that involved 200 agents and resulted in charges against 50 people in six states.
The authorities said the parents of some of the US' wealthiest and most privileged students sought to buy spots for their children at top universities, not only cheating the system but also potentially cheating other hardworking students out of a chance at a college education.
Thirty-three well-heeled parents, including Hollywood celebrities and prominent business leaders, were charged in the case. Prosecutors said there could be additional indictments to come.
In many of the cases, prosecutors said, the students were not aware that their parents were doctoring their test scores and lying to get them into school. Federal prosecutors did not charge any students or universities with wrongdoing.
Mr Andrew Lelling, US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said on Tuesday: "The parents are the prime movers of this fraud."
At the centre of the case was William Singer, founder of a college preparatory business called the Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key.
The authorities said Singer used The Key and its non-profit arm, Key Worldwide Foundation, based in Newport Beach, California, to help students cheat on their standardised tests and to pay bribes to the coaches who could get them into college with fake athletic credentials.
Singer used The Key as a front, allowing parents to funnel money into an account without having to pay any federal taxes.
Parents paid Singer about US$25 million (S$34 million), from 2011 to last month, to bribe coaches and university officials to designate their children as recruited athletes, which effectively ensured their admission, according to the indictment.
Singer appeared in federal court in Boston on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to counts of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of justice.