It all began on March 12, 2019 when E! News obtained court documents showing that both Huffman and Loughlin have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The Desperate Housewives alum and the Fuller House star are among over 40 individuals who have been charged in connection with the scandal.
According to the FBI affidavit, the scheme involved getting students admitted into elite colleges. "Beginning in or about 2011, and continuing through the present, the defendants—principally individuals whose high-school aged children were applying to college—conspired with others to use bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children's admission to colleges and universities in the District of Massachusetts and elsewhere, including Yale University, Stanford University, the University of Texas, the University of Southern California, and the University of California–Los Angeles, among others," the affidavit states.
The same day that the news broke, E! News confirmed that 13 defendants were taken into custody in the Los Angeles area, including defendant Huffman.
The FBI affidavit states that Huffman and her "spouse," William H. Macy, made a purported charitable contribution of $15,000 to participate in the scheme on behalf of her eldest daughter. She "later made arrangements to pursue the scheme a second time, for her younger daughter, before deciding not to do so," the document reads.
Huffman and Macy are parents to Sophia Grace Macy, 20, and Georgia Grace Macy, 18.
Per the court orders, the Oscar nominee had to surrender her passport and was required to seek pre-trial approval for any travel.
Huffman was also granted a signature bond of $250,000 and was ordered to appear in federal court in Boston on March 29, 2019. The signature bond required the 57-year-old actress to sign a promise to return to court, but did not require a deposit of any cash or property with the court.
While there are many theories as to why Macy has not been charged in this FBI investigation—code name Operation Varsity Blues—there's been no official statement from authorities.
New York Law School professor and former prosecutor Rebecca Roiphe shared one theory with Vulture, stating, "One of the possibilities is that the husband is far less culpable. Maybe it's possible that the government has far more evidence than it's laid out here, and in this evidence, that Huffman played a far more significant role than her husband."
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts told E! News that Loughlin had not yet been arrested on March 12, 2019 as she was out of the country. She was contact by federal authorities to come back and turn herself in. Loughlin's husband Mossimo Giannulli was arrested on March 12, 2019 without incident.
It's noted in the FBI affidavit, "The Guannullis agreed to a pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team—despite the fact that they did not participate in crew—thereby facilitating their admission to USC."
Loughlin and Giannulli have two daughters, Isabella Rose, 22, and YouTube star Olivia Jade, 20.
Meanwhile, William "Rick" Singer, 58, was charged racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud US and obstruction of justice for his alleged involvement in the scheme. E! News has confirmed that Singer pled guilty to all counts.
According to a press release, Singer owned and operated the Edge College & Career Network LLC ("The Key") – a for-profit college counseling and preparation business – and served as the CEO of the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF) – a non-profit corporation that he established as a purported charity.
The release stated that between approximately 2011 and Feb. 2019, Singer allegedly "conspired with dozens of parents, athletic coaches, a university athletics administrator, and others, to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of students to colleges and universities including Yale University, Georgetown University, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and Wake Forest University, among others."
So what's been going on since then? Here's everything we know in an informative timeline of events.
April 8, 2019
The Department of Justice announced that 13 parents and one university athletic coach have agreed to plead guilty to charges of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Huffman is among the parents set to plead guilty.
In a statement, Huffman said, "I am pleading guilty to the charge brought against me by the United States Attorney's Office. I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions. I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community."
She added, "I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize 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 in the statement. "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."
April 9, 2019
It was announced that 16 parents involved in the cheating scandal, including Loughlin and husband Giannulli, face additional legal trouble.
"Sixteen parents involved in the college admissions scandal were charged today in Boston in a second superseding indictment with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering in connection with a scheme to use bribery to cheat on college entrance exams and to facilitate their children's admission to selective colleges and universities as purported athletic recruits," a Department of Justice press release stated.
The press release also explained, "The second superseding indictment also charges the defendants with conspiring to launder the bribes and other payments in furtherance of the fraud by funneling them through Singer's purported charity and his for-profit corporation, as well as by transferring money into the United States, from outside the United States, for the purpose of promoting the fraud scheme."
Additionally, the press release provides insight into the possible sentencing that the parents are facing, stating, "The charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors."
April 15, 2019
Loughlin and her longtime husband pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Both waived their right to appear in court for arraignment
More recently, the pair's attorney pleaded not guilty on their behalf at the arraignment on April 29, 2019. A source familiar with the case told E! News, "Their attorney represented them during today's arraignment. The court accepted the not guilty pleas."
September 13, 2019
Huffman appeared in a Massachusetts court, where she was sentenced to 14 days in prison, supervised release for one year, 250 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine.
October 14, 2019
Huffman officially began her prison sentence.
"Felicity Huffman reported today for sentencing to the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, CA. Ms. Huffman is prepared to serve the term of imprisonment Judge Talwani ordered as one part of the punishment she imposed for Ms. Huffman's actions," Huffman's rep said in a statement to E! News. "She will begin serving the remainder of the sentence Judge Talwani imposed—one year of supervised release, with conditions including 250 hours of community service—when she is released."
October 21, 2019
E! News can confirm Loughlin's daughters are no longer enrolled at USC.
According to a statement from the USC Registrar, "Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli are not currently enrolled. We are unable to provide additional information because of student privacy laws."
October 22, 2019
Loughlin and her husband are among the parents facing additional charges in the college admissions scandal. A grand jury in the District of Massachusetts announced additional charges against 11 of the 15 parents involved the scandal. According to a press release from the Department of Justice, these new charges in the third superseding indictment allege that the 11 defendants "conspired to commit federal program bribery by bribing employees of the University of Southern California (USC) to facilitate their children's admission."
The release continues, "In exchange for the bribes, employees of the university allegedly designated the defendants' children as athletic recruits – with little or no regard for their athletic abilities – or as members of other favored admissions categories."
Of the additional charges in the case, U.S. attorney Andrew E. Lelling said Tuesday, "Today's charges are the result of ongoing investigation in the nationwide college admissions case. Our goal from the beginning has been to hold the defendants fully accountable for corrupting the college admissions process through cheating, bribery and fraud. The superseding indictments will further that effort."
According to court documents obtained by E! News and filed on Nov. 1, 2019 Loughlin pleaded not guilty to each of the counts against her in the third superseding indictment and waived her right to appear in court for arraignment.
January 14, 2020
The government filed a 526-page motion in Massachusetts federal court that featured redacted emails, documents and phone call transcripts to show Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli's alleged involvement with William "Rick" Singer and the college admissions scam.
According to CNN, the motion served as the government's response to an argument made by Loughlin, Giannulli and others who have pleaded not guilty. Per the news outlet, the defendants accuse the government of withholding evidence—that USC officials allegedly knew of the scam—and claim the couple participated in what they allegedly understood to be a legitimate donation practice.
"Universities—as part of their legitimate admissions process—regularly solicit donations from the families of prospective students, and... such donations can have a material effect on admissions decisions," court documents state.
However, the government claims the documents show Loughlin and Giannulli rejected a "legitimate approach." It also denies the withholding evidence accusation.
April 9, 2020
Federal prosecutors in the college admissions scandal have filed a response to Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli's request to dismiss the case. In new court documents obtained by E! News, emails, phone transcripts and photos further reveal the famous couple's alleged involvement with the scam's accused ring leader, William "Rick" Singer.
Among the exhibits submitted by prosecutors are photos of their daughters posing on an indoor rowing machine, which prosecutors allege were taken by Loughlin and Giannulli and sent to Singer to help them gain admission to the University of Southern California.
May 21, 2020
Loughlin and Giannulli agree to plead guilty in the college admissions scandal. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Loughlin and Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with securing the fraudulent admission of their two children to the University of Southern California as purported athletic recruits.
Loughlin will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Giannulli will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud. Per the terms of Loughlin's plea agreement, she's agreed to a sentence, subject to the Court's approval, of two months in prison, a $150,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service. Under the terms of Giannulli's plea agreement, he's agreed to a sentence, subject to the Court's approval, of five months in prison, a $250,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 250 hours of community service, authorities said.
Aug. 21, 2020
Judge Nathaniel Gorton announced via a virtual court hearing that he has accepted Giannulli's plea deal. In the Zoom hearing, Giannulli was sentenced to five months in prison and two years of supervised release. He will also serve 250 hours of community service and pay a $250,000 fine. He is required to self-surrender 90 days from today.
Hours later, the judge also accepted Loughlin's plea deal, sentencing the actress to two months in prison, two years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service. He also ordered she pay a fine of $150,000.
September 17, 2020
According to court documents obtained by E! News, a judge signed off on Louglin's request to serve her prison sentence at the federal correctional institution in Victorville, Calif. Inmates are housed in dormitories, which are divided into two-person cubicles.
In comparison, Giannulli is expected to serve his sentence at the low-security federal prison for men at Lompoc in Santa Barbara County, Calif. Both parties must surrender and begin their sentence by 2 p.m. on November 19, 2020.
(This story was originally published on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 at 12:25 p.m. PST)