Actress Felicity Huffman and a dozen other parents agreed on Monday to plead guilty to using bribery to get their children into prestigious universities.
Huffman, 56, best known for her role in the “Desperate Housewives” series, agreed to plead guilty to paying $15 000 (about R210 000) to help her eldest daughter get better scores on the SAT college entrance exam, the Massachusetts Department of Justice said in a statement.
Huffman’s equally famous husband, actor William H Macy of “Fargo” fame, was not charged in connection with the college admissions scandal.
The Massachusetts Department of Justice said that in addition to Huffman, another dozen parents charged in the case had also agreed to plead guilty.
Huffman could face a maximum of up to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit mail fraud but is not expected to receive such a stiff sentence.
The Boston Globe said that as part of a plea agreement, Huffman’s sentencing guidelines would be between four to 10 months in prison and prosecutors would recommend she serve the “low end” of that scale.
The newspaper also published a statement from Huffman in which she apologised for her actions.
“I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community,” she said.
“I want to apologise to them and, especially, I want to apologise 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.
“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her,” Huffman said. “My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty.”
Another television actress, Lori Loughlin, known for her role on “Full House,” has also been charged in the case but did not enter a plea on Monday.
Loughlin and her husband are accused of paying $500 000 in 2016 and 2017 so that their two daughters could gain entrance into the University of Southern California by posing as members of the rowing team.
The actresses were the most famous of the 50 people indicted in a scam to help children of the American elite gain entry into top US colleges.
Some of the other parents involved were CEOs or partners in major law firms.
Some of them paid as much as $400 000 to get their child into the college of their choice.
The ringleader behind the scam, William “Rick” Singer, who authorities say was paid about $25 million dollars to bribe coaches and university administrators, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities.
Besides USC, some of the universities targeted in the elaborate cheating scam include Yale, Stanford, UCLA and Georgetown. None of the schools or the students have been charged in the case.
According to prosecutors, the accused parents paid a firm run by Singer to cheat on college entrance exams for their children or to bribe coaches to help non-athletic students get scholarships.