Felicity Huffman Pleads Guilty in College Admissions Scam

Police escort actress Felicity Huffman into the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston, Massachusetts, on May 13, 2019.  (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

Updated May 13, 1 p.m.

"Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty on Monday to participating in the college admissions cheating scheme.

The 56-year-old actress entered the plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Huffman stood with her hands clasped in front of her and responded, "Yes, your honor," when asked whether she understood the charges. Her brother, Moore Huffman Jr., watched from the front row. Her husband, 69-year-old "Shameless" actor William H. Macy, didn't attend the hearing.

Huffman became the highest-profile person so far to admit to taking part in a college admissions bribery scheme that has also ensnared prominent college coaches and figures from the business world in the investigation named "Operation Varsity Blues."

The case has put the career of Huffman, an Emmy-winning star, in turmoil and laid bare the elite's ability to influence the education system. Huffman is among 14 parents who have agreed to plead guilty to charges in what authorities have called the biggest college admissions cheating scandal ever prosecuted in the U.S.

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The parents are accused of paying an admissions consultant to bribe coaches in exchange for helping their children get into school as athletic recruits. The consultant, Rick Singer, also paid off entrance exam administrators to allow a proctor to take tests for students or fix their answers, authorities say.

Huffman paid Singer $15,000 to have a proctor correct her older daughter's SAT answers and considered going through with the scheme for her younger daughter before deciding not to, authorities say.

Investigators have said Macy was with her when Singer explained how he could arrange for the cheating because he "controlled" a test center. Both Huffman and Macy agreed to plan, authorities say, but Macy has not been charged. Prosecutors have not explained why.

Huffman has apologized and said her daughter, 18, was unaware of her actions.

"I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions," the actress said in an emailed statement last month.

Huffman has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Prosecutors had said they would seek a four-month sentence, but the judge could also choose not to send her to prison. Sentencing is set for Sept. 13.

Experts differ on the long-term impact the scandal will have on Huffman's career.

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After Huffman agreed to plead guilty, Netflix officials said a film starring her, "Otherhood," would not be released as planned in April and a new date would be determined. A limited Netflix series featuring Huffman on the Central Park Five case is expected to debut this month.

Los Angeles businessman Devin Sloane, who authorities say paid $250,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California as a fake water polo recruit, also pleaded guilty on Monday.

Sloane, who founded a drinking and wastewater systems company, bought water polo gear online and worked with a graphic designer to create a bogus photo of his son playing the sport for the teen's application, officials say.

Some parents accused of participating in the scam have decided to fight the charges.

Fellow actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty to paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into USC as crew recruits even though neither of them is a rower.

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