BY ALANNA DURKIN RICHER
BOSTON (AP) — “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman and a dozen other prominent parents have agreed to plead guilty in the college admissions bribery scam that ensnared wealthy families and athletic coaches at some of the nation’s most selective universities, federal authorities said Monday.
The actress and the other parents were charged last month in the scheme, which authorities say involved rigging standardized test scores and bribing coaches at such prestigious schools as Yale and Georgetown.
Huffman, 56, was accused of paying a consultant $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to boost her daughter’s SAT score. Authorities say the actress also discussed going through with the same plan for her younger daughter but ultimately decided not to.
She will plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy and fraud, according to court documents. Those charges are punishable by up to 20 years in prison, but the plea agreement indicates prosecutors will seek a sentence of four to 10 months.
Experts have said they expect some parents will avoid prison time if they quickly accept responsibility. All of the defendants will have to return to Boston to enter formal guilty pleas, but no new court dates were set.
Other parents charged in the scheme include prominent figures in law, finance, fashion, the food and beverage industry and other fields.
It’s the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. The scandal embroiled elite universities across the country and laid bare the lengths to which status-seeking parents will go to secure their children a coveted spot.
The consultant, Rick Singer, met with Huffman and her husband, 69-year-old actor William H. Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained to them that he “controlled” a testing center and could have somebody secretly change their daughter’s answers, authorities said. Singer told investigators Huffman and her husband agreed to the plan.
Macy was not charged. Authorities have not said why.
In a statement offering her first public comments since her arrest, Huffman apologized, took responsibility for her actions and said she would accept the consequences.
“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty,” she said.
Michael Center, the former men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin, has also agreed to plead guilty, prosecutors said Monday. Center was accused of accepting nearly $100,000 to help a non-tennis playing applicant get admitted as a recruit.