On Wed. April 3, defendants Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman and other lesser known celebrities and parents will appear in a federal court in Boston to appear before a judge at their preliminary hearing. The two actresses along with more than 30 other individuals are charged with crimes of using money to gain admission to elite colleges for their children in amounts up to over $1 million. In some alleged instances, the defendants paid a bogus charity to fake athletic activities, cheat on college entrance exams and through other nefarious means to gain college acceptance. The old fashion way of study hard, get good grades and/or work hard at athletics wasn’t working for them. So they chose the side door entrance.
It’s one thing for actors to use celebrity status and money to gain admission into exclusive parties and events via the side door. It’s quite another thing to use celebrity status and money to fake their children’s test scores and school activities to gain admission into elite colleges through the side door. The second one is illegal.
On Wed. April 3, a preliminary hearing will take place on the case of actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman and others on the allegations of paying money anywhere from $15,000 to over $1 million to get their children accepted into elite schools, through numerous alleged nefarious schemes. The prosecution’s case will be set forth during the preliminary hearing with an actual indictment to likely follow by April 11.With so many defendants charged—over 30, there will likely be defendants who will ultimately turn into government witnesses to lessen their charges and imposition of jail time.
At the end of the day, it remains to be seen if celebrity status will be helpful as in the case of Jussie Smollett getting a light slap on the wrist. In reality, most non-violent defendants without a prior criminal record usually receive probation, some form of community service, fines and other forms of restitution, if warranted. In this case, if the defendants filed any charitable deductions on their tax returns for monies given to the bogus company assisting in the fraud, they will have a separate day of reckoning case with the IRS.
As a former prosecutor, the case concerns me on so many levels. Here are parents who could pay for the best schools, best tutors, best college prep courses and best private middle schools to gain the upper edge. The fact that they chose the easy illegal way out is disgusting. It slaps in the face of what my parents and many others taught their children–to work hard, study hard, get good grades and do well in athletics and school activities, if inclined that way. In doing so, these students took away the opportunity of another well deserving student who played by the book. And even though there may be students who can file a lawsuit to challenge their lack of admission, there is no justifiable way to prove that these students would have been admitted without the scandalous students’ admission.
On another level, there are often cases where affirmative action is challenged for students of color at elite schools. Affirmative action is not a gift or illegal give away. In light of the college scheme scandal, I would hope that persons would refrain from questioning whether minorities earned the right to attend certain colleges and universities.
As for the privileged children of these parents, they should be charged if they knew that they were given an upper hand with test taking and test scores. They should be charged with fraud right along with their parents.
Updates will follow after Wednesday’s preliminary hearing. An indictment is likely to follow before April 11, 2019.
Washington, D.C. based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, criminal attorney and former prosecutor.