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Television Stars, Coaches, Others Charged In Nationwide US College Bribery Scheme

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FBI Special Agent in Charge Boston Division Joseph Bonavolonta, left, and U.S. Attorney for District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling, right, face reporters as they announce indictments in a sweeping college admissions bribery scandal during a news conference, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, in Boston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged along with nearly 50 other people Tuesday in a scheme in which wealthy parents bribed college coaches and insiders at testing centers to get their children into some of the most elite schools in the country, federal prosecutors said.

Authorities called it the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department.

“These parents are a catalog of wealth and privilege,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in announcing the $25 million bribery case against 50 people in all.

At least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents were among those charged in the investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. Dozens, including Huffman, were arrested by midday.

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.

The coaches worked at such schools as Stanford, Georgetown, Wake Forest, the University of Southern California and University of California, Los Angeles. A former Yale soccer coach pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.

Lelling said the investigation is continuing and authorities believe other parents were involved. The schools themselves are not targets of the investigation, he said.

No students were charged. Authorities said in many cases the teenagers were not aware of the fraud.

Authorities said coaches in such sports as soccer, sailing, tennis, water polo and volleyball accepted bribes to put students on lists of recruited athletes, regardless of their ability or experience. That, in turn, boosted the students’ chances of admission.

Among the parents charged were Gordon Caplan of Greenwich, Connecticut, a co-chairman of an international law firm based in New York; Jane Buckingham, CEO of a boutique marketing company in Los Angeles; Gregory Abbott of New York, founder and chairman of a packaging company; and Manuel Henriquez, CEO of a finance company based in Palo Alto, California.

The bribes allegedly came through an admissions consulting company in Newport Beach, California. Authorities said parents paid William Singer, the founder of the Edge College & Career Network, approximately $25 million to get their children into college.

Prosecutors said Singer was scheduled to plead guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy.

John Vandemoer, the former head sailing coach at Stanford, was also expected to plead guilty Tuesday.

Loughlin, who was charged along with her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, appeared in the ABC sitcom “Full House,” while Huffman starred in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” Both were charged with fraud and conspiracy.

Court documents said Huffman paid $15,000 that she disguised as a charitable donation so that her daughter could take part in the college entrance-exam cheating scam.

Court papers said a cooperating witness met with Huffman and her husband, 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 her daughter’s answers. The person told investigators that the couple agreed to the plan.

Macy was not charged; authorities did not say why.

Messages seeking comment from Huffman’s representative were not immediately returned. A spokeswoman for Loughlin had no comment.

Read the full criminal complaint below:

Crime

Bo Dukes Sentenced To 25 Years In Prison For Covering Up Death of Tara Grinstead

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ABBEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A man convicted of helping hide the death of a missing Georgia teacher has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

News outlets reported that 34-year-old Bo Dukes was sentenced Friday morning in court in Abbeville.

Dukes was convicted Thursday night of lying to investigators about the 2005 death of Tara Grinstead. The high school history teacher’s body was burned to ash and bone fragments in a pecan orchard.

What happened to the woman wasn’t revealed until Dukes and another man were arrested in 2017.

Dukes was convicted of two counts of making a false statement, hindering the arrest of a criminal and concealing a death.

His co-defendant, Ryan Alexander Duke, is charged with murder in Grinstead’s death and is scheduled for trial April 1 in Irwin County.

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Crime

US Supreme Court Agrees To Decide Whether Lee Boyd Malvo Gets A New Sentence

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March 18 (UPI) — The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to decide whether a gunman in the 2002 Beltway Sniper case should receive a new sentence because he was a teenager at the time.

The random shootings terrorized the Washington, D.C., area in September and October 2002 and killed 10 people. Lee Boyd Malvo and John Allen Muhammad were ultimately captured and convicted of the sniper killings. Muhammad was executed in 2009 and Malvo is serving six consecutive life sentences. At the time of the shootings, Malvo was 17.

The Supreme Court issued a writ of certiorari Monday to hear the appeal next term.

At issue is a 2012 Supreme Court ruling that said juveniles cannot be given mandatory life-without-parole sentences unless they committed murder or were determined permanently incorrigible.

A Virginia court last year vacated Malvo’s sentences and asked a trial court to rule on whether his crimes reflect permanent incorrigibility or “the transient nature of youth.”

Malvo is now 34 years old.

A U.S. Court of Appeals panel called the Beltway shootings “the most heinous, random acts of premeditated violence conceivable, destroying lives and families and terrorizing the entire Washington D.C., metropolitan area for over six weeks, instilling mortal fear daily in the citizens of that community.”

The judges said, “Malvo was 17 years old when he committed the murders, and he now has the retroactive benefit of new constitutional rules that treat juveniles differently for sentencing.”

Malvo faces life without parole in Maryland, where he killed six people. That sentence was upheld in 2017 and is pending at the state Supreme Court. Muhammad, who was 25 years older than Malvo, smuggled him into the country illegally from Antigua.

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Crime

First Murder Trial in Tara Grinstead Case Begins

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ABBEVILLE, Ga. (AP) — A Georgia man is standing trial on charges that he helped conceal the death of a high school teacher who disappeared more than 13 years ago.

Bo Dukes is charged with concealing a death, hindering the apprehension of a felon and lying to police after Tara Grinstead vanished from her home in rural Irwin County in October 2005. His trial began Monday in neighboring Wilcox County.

Prosecutors say Dukes’ friend, Ryan Duke, killed Grinstead and enlisted Dukes’ to help burn her body. Both men were arrested in 2017. Duke is charged with murder. His trial is scheduled to start April 1.

John McCullough testified Tuesday that he befriended Dukes during Army basic training in 2006. He said Dukes confessed to him a few weeks after they met.

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