Felicity Huffman Pleads Guilty in College Admissions Scam; Prosecutors Want Jail Time

Felicity Huffman at February 28, 2015 premiere of ABC Television Network drama “American Crime” Photo credit ABC/Matt Petit, courtesy of Walt Disney Television via Flickr. Creative Commons license (CC BY-ND 2.0).

Felicity Huffman, best known as a television star in shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Sports Night,” appeared in a federal court in Boston on Monday to plead guilty to multiple criminal charges related to her role in a college admissions scam that involved dozens of coaches, college administrators, and wealthy parents known to investigators as “Operation Varsity Blues.”

The two charges against Huffman were mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. As part of her guilty plea, Huffman admitted in open court that she paid $15,000 to raise her daughter’s score on the SAT. The bribe money was paid to William “Rick” Singer, who arranged for an accomplice, Mark Riddell, to correct Huffman’s daughter’s test. Riddell’s corrections resulted in her getting a score of 1420.

Singer allegedly worked with dozens of parents to assist their children’s chances of admission to elite colleges, including faking academic and athletic accomplishments, cheating on college admissions tests, and bribing coaches and college admissions officials.

Huffman pled guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, agreeing to pay a fine of $20,000 plus restitution.

In exchange for Huffman’s plea, prosecutors agreed to recommend the low end of the federal sentencing guidelines, between four and ten months. In court on Monday, they specifically recommended four months. Huffman also avoided facing additional charges, like the money laundering conspiracy that were brought against the parents who have not yet pled guilty.

Huffman was accompanied in court by her brother. Her husband, actor William H. Macy, was not present. Macy has not been charged.

Huffman repeatedly stated that her daughter was innocent and completely unaware of her actions, and claimed sole responsibility herself. “Everything else [federal prosecutor Eric] Rosen said I did, I did.”

“I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility of my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions,” said Huffman.

“I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues, and the educational community,” she continued. “I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly.”

Huffman was released until her sentencing date of September 13, 2019.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani has the discretion to accept the prosecution’s recommended four months in jail, sentence her for a shorter or longer period, or even no jail time at all, which is a possibility considering her lack of prior criminal history and relatively low amount of money involved.

The $15,000 Huffman admitted to paying as a bribe is one of the smallest payments alleged in the Operation Varsity Blues investigation. Several of the other parents — including “Full House” star Lori Laughlin — are alleged to have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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