Actress who played Aunt Becky on 'Full House' in custody in connection with college bribery scheme

BOSTON — Authorities in Boston announced charges Tuesday against 50 people, including coaches at prestigious colleges and Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, as part of an alleged large-scale college entrance bribery scheme.

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Documents unsealed Tuesday in federal court showed coaches at schools including Wake Forest University, Georgetown and the University of Southern California were charged as part of the scheme, in which coaches were bribed to admit students as athletes regardless of their ability, according to The Associated Press.

Update 11:45 a.m. EDT March 13:

The FBI says actress Lori Loughlin has been taken into custody in connection with a scheme in which wealthy parents paid bribes to get their children into top colleges.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller says Loughlin is in custody Wednesday morning in Los Angeles. She is scheduled to appear in court there in the afternoon.

Prosecutors allege Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 to have their two daughters labeled as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, even though neither is a rower.

They were among 50 people charged in the scheme.

Loughlin became famous as the wholesome Aunt Becky in the 1980s and '90s sitcom "Full House." She has lately become the queen of the Hallmark channel with her holiday movies and the series "When Calls the Heart."

Update 7:55 p.m. EDT March 12: Actress Felicity Huffman has been released on a $250,000 bond in connection with charges related to the college admissions cheating scandal, according to The Associated Press.

Huffman, whose husband, actor William H. Macy was by her side, appeared before a judge at the Los Angeles Courthouse Monday afternoon and was repeatedly heard answering “yes” to the judge’s questions, according to KCBS-TV.

Update 3:35 p.m. EDT March 12: William "Rick" Singer, the California businessman who founded the admissions consulting company at the center of the alleged college entrance bribery scheme, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Authorities said Singer schemed with parents, coaches and others to pay students' way into schools like Yale, Georgetown and Stanford University.

Prosecutors say parents paid Singer about $25 million to bribe coaches and administrators into pretending that their children were athletic recruits to guarantee their admission.

Update 2:25 p.m. EDT March 12: The NCAA is investigating after authorities announced charges Tuesday against 50 people accused of taking part in a college admissions bribery scheme.

The group said in a statement Tuesday that the charges made public Tuesday "are troubling and should be a concern for all of higher education."

"We are looking  into these allegations to determine the extent to which NCAA rules may have been violated," the statement said.

Most NCAA rules that regulate recruiting are aimed at preventing schools and coaches from giving improper benefits and enticements to athletes. In this case, parents were paying coaches to help students gain entry to college by falsifying athletic credentials and claiming that the students were being recruited to plays sports.

Update 1:15 p.m. EDT March 12: U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a news conference Tuesday that the $25 million federal bribery case is the biggest college admissions scam to be prosecuted by the Justice Department.

"These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege," he said.

At least nine athletic coaches and dozens of parents were among those charged in an investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, federal authorities said.

Prosecutors said parents paid an admissions consultant from 2011 through last month to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes, to alter test scores and to have others take online classes to boost their children's chances of getting into schools.

Parents spent anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million to guarantee their children's admission, officials said.

"For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected," Lelling said.

Update 12:40 p.m. EDT March 12: Authorities said Huffman was arrested early Tuesday in Los Angeles without incident, NBC News reported, citing unidentified officials.

The New York Daily News reported that Huffman was expected to appear in court Tuesday afternoon.

Update 12:30 p.m. EDT March 12: In a letter sent Tuesday to students, USC President Wanda Austin said the university had "no reason to believe that Admissions employees or senior administrators were aware of the scheme or took part in any wrongdoing." A long-time employee of the school's athletic department, a current coach and three former coaching staff were involved in the scheme, according to authorities.

"The government has repeatedly informed us that it views USC as a victim and that these employees purposefully deceived USC," Austin said.

Original report: Authorities indicted Rudolph "Rudy" Meredith, the former head coach of Yale University's women's soccer team, on two counts of wire fraud for allegedly taking bribes to admit students to the school as recruited athletes.

Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin criminal complaint by National Content Desk on Scribd

According to an indictment, authorities believe Meredith worked with William Rick Singer, a California businessman, and others to retain clients willing to bribe university coaches and administrators to admit their children to prestigious universities.

The indictment alleges Singer and Meredith concealed the payments by funneling them through Singer's charitable accounts.

Meredith served as the head coach of the Yale women's soccer team from 1995 to November 2018.

Arrest warrants have been issued for about 40 people involved in the college admissions scam, including renowned celebrities and influential business owners.

Authorities on Tuesday released a list of the people charged:

  • William Rick Singer: Racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the US, obstruction of justice
  • Rudolph "Rudy" Meredith: Conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud; honest services wire fraud
  • Mark Riddell: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud; conspiracy to commit money laundering
  • John Vandemoer: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Igor Dvorskiy: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Gordon Ernst: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • William Ferguson: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Martin Fox: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Donna Heinel: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Laura Janke: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Ali Khosroshahin: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Steven Masera: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Jorge Salcedo: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Mikaela Sanford: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • David Sidoo: Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud
  • Jovan Vavic: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Niki Williams: Conspiracy to commit racketeering
  • Gregory Abbott: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Marcia Abbott: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Gamal Abdelaziz: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Diane Blake: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Todd Blake: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Jane Buckingham: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Gordon Caplan: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Michael Center: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • I-Hsin "Joey" Chen: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Amy Colburn: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Gregory Colburn: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Robert Flaxman: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Mossimo Giannulli: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Elizabeth Henriquez: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Manuel Henriquez: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Douglas Hodge: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Felicity Huffman: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Agustin Huneeus: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Bruce Isackson: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Davina Isackson: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Michelle Janavs: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Elisabeth Kimmel: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Marjorie Klapper: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Lori Loughlin: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Toby MacFarlane: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • William McGlashan: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Marci Palatella: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Peter Jan Sartorio: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Stephen Semprevivo: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Devin Sloane: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • John Wilson: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Homayoun Zadeh: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
  • Robert Zangrillo: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud

See the court documents unsealed Tuesday:

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Check back for updates to this developing story.