On Tuesday (March 12), actresses Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman were amongst the fifty-plus people arrested in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Said arrested individuals allegedly paid bribes in excess of $6.5 million to get their children into elite colleges, including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
Laughlin, of course, is best known for her role as Aunt Becky on “Full House.” I guess Huffman would be best known for her turn on “Desperate Housewives” and her marriage to Frank Gallagher – I mean William H. Macy.
So many levels to this. Some of you may be wondering what business (if any) the federal government has in such a prosecution. The indictment is 204 pages, and needless to say, I have not read the entire document. But it appears that the government is alleging violations of mail fraud and honest services fraud pursuant to 18 USC § 1349.
Second, the operation was dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” I hope they give the FBI operation-namer a gold star for that one. I cannot think of a better operation name other than “Operation Paul Bunyan,” which was a plan to chop down a tree on the Korean DMZ that was obscuring American troops' view of North Korean spies.
Third, as a fan of the TV show “Shameless,” I cannot believe that William H. Macy was not arrested for some sort of Frank Gallagher-esque behavior. Then again, Frank Gallagher would absolutely pin his wife with all the blame, so maybe I shouldn't be that surprised. In all seriousness, Macy was apparently caught on a recorded conversation with a corroborating witness in the case allegedly discussing a $15,000 payment to ensure their younger daughter scored high on a college entrance exam. Huffman and Macy apparently decided not to go through the plan with their younger daughter, but Huffman was popped for charges stemming from the $15,000 she allegedly disguised as a charitable donation so her older daughter could take part in the college entrance cheating scam
Fourth, some of the parents involved in this scheme bribed various personages to get their kids into school with fake athletic credentials. For example, Laughlin allegedly agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 to have their two daughters designated as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team with no regard to their rowing ability. If I were a parent of a potential crew recruit to USC that had actual rowing ability, I would be incredibly pissed off. Unsurprisingly, most of these payments were for athletic credentials in “non-revenue” sports. Keep in mind that when coaches in “revenue” sports get caught discussing paying players on a federal wiretap, said coaches only get suspended while the NCAA does nothing.
Fifth, if I'm going to pay bribes totaling $500,000 to get my kids into an elite school, I would want to ensure that my kid got into Harvard or Yale. I mean, USC is a good school, but if you're paying top money, I would expect better results. As a proud graduate of the University of Virginia and Tulane University Law School, it's good to hear that neither of those institutions was involved.
Finally, I cannot get over the hubris/stupidity/foolhardiness/criminal brilliance of parents declaring their bribes as charitable contributions. You may or may not know that know that legitimate charitable contributions are tax-deductible. So basically, not only were these wealthy parents paying bribes to get their kids into great schools, but their payments gave them a tax break. Simply stunning.
I will continue to monitor the situation. Until then, if you have a criminal defense case, whether or not that case involves academic cheating, call the Law Office of Alex Kriksciun today!