DESPERATE MEASURES —Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman and fellow Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin were among 50 people indicted Tuesday in a multi-million dollar scam to help children of the American elite cheat their way into top universities.
The accused, who also include chief executives, financiers, a winemaker and fashion designer, allegedly cheated in admissions tests or arranged for bribes to get their children into prestigious schools including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors said.
They paid a bogus charity run by Californian William Singer millions both to arrange for people to fix SAT and ACT entrance exams for their children, and also to bribe university sports coaches to recruit their children, even when the children were not qualified to play at that level of sports.
Huffman, 56, and Loughlin, the 54-year-old star of Full House, were among 33 parents accused of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in joining the scheme.
Loughlin’s fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli was also on the list, while Huffman’s husband William Macy, the star of Showtime’s Shameless, was not, despite the indictment making clear he was partly involved in talks with Singer’s operations.
A Justice Department official in Los Angeles said 13 of those indicted were taken into custody Tuesday morning; according to reports Huffman was among them.
Loughlin was reportedly in Canada. and en route back to Los Angeles.
The scheme aimed to take advantage of the two years of stress parents across the United States often endure as they put high school-age children through the standardized SAT and ACT tests needed to gain entry into heavily competitive colleges and universities.
Many parents pay handsomely for test preparation and have their children take the tests two or three times to better their scores.
In this case, however, the scheme either had someone take the test for the students, or someone fixed their tests to ensure high scores that would get them into highly desirable universities.
“Wealthy parents paid Singer about 25 million dollars in total,” said Andrew Lelling, the US attorney in Boston, Massachusetts where the case was filed.
“These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege. They include, for example, CEOs of private and public companies, successful securities and real estate investors, two well-known actresses, a famous fashion designer and the co-chairman of a global law firm,” he said.
Over the one-year investigation, investigators supported by informants recorded conversations between parents and Singer’s people discussing just how high to elevate the scores and how to prevent the students from discovering the reason behind their test results.
The scheme had two levels: fixing the test scores, and gaining bogus admission into universities by paying coaches to “recruit” them onto their teams.
In Huffman’s case, she “donated” $15,000 to Singer’s fake charity Key Worldwide Foundation in 2017 for someone to set up a special testing site and date for her oldest daughter and then to fix the answers on the daughter’s test.
She then had discussions about doing the same for her younger daughter, but never followed through.
In the second “side door” scheme, Singer’s operation would create bogus athletic profiles for the students and manage payoffs to coaches in minor sports like soccer, tennis and sailing at universities so that the student could be accepted on that basis.
“What is going to happen when they see his application, he’ll be flagged as an athlete,” one of Singer’s people told William McGlashan, an executive at the huge investment group TPG Capital, who wanted to get his son in a certain school.
“But once he gets here, he just goes, he doesn’t go to athletic orientation, He goes to the regular orientation like all my other kids just did … and everything’s fine.”
McGlashan, who paid $50,000 for testing help for one son, was told he would have to pay $250,000 to use the athletics “side door” to enter University of Southern California.
Lelling said Singer’s clients paid up to $6.5 million for both services.
HAL BLAINE PASSES — On Monday, Hal Blaine — the legendary drummer whose work as part of the Wrecking Crew made him an icon, his resume unparalleled — passed away at the age of 90.The message posted on Facebook:
“Hal Blaine – loving father of Michelle Blaine; grandfather of Anthony, Josh, Aaron, Whitney, Tempest, Ever and Lyryk; and inspiration to countless friends, fans and musicians – has passed on today, March 11th, 2019 at the age of 90. May he rest forever on 2 and 4. The family appreciates your outpouring of support and prayers that have been extended to Hal from around the world, and respectfully request privacy in this time of great mourning. No further details will be released at this time.”
Variety summed up Blaine’s incredible career in a lengthy memorial piece that really shows just how amazing his career accomplishments were:
He was featured on the majority of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound productions, including the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” which featured perhaps the most indelible drum introduction in rock ‘n’ roll history. He also appeared on many of the Beach Boys’ best-known records (standing in for the L.A. band’s Dennis Wilson), including the classic 1966 album Pet Sounds and the experimental single from that same year, “Good Vibrations.”
Blaine appeared on such No. 1 hits as the Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel,” the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” Frank Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night,” Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” and “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” the Carpenters’ “Close to You” and Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were.”
The most adaptable of studio percussionists, he also cut dates such notables as Elvis Presley (on both record and movie dates), Sam Cooke, Dean Martin, Jan & Dean, Johnny Rivers, the Monkees, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Nancy Sinatra, the Mamas and the Papas, Cher, John Denver and Steely Dan.
SHORT TAKES — Belated Bday wishes to Mary Wilson. Her Supreme Glamour book (Thames & Hudson), written with Mark Bego, is out shortly … Markos Papadatos, in his Digital Journal column did a nice spread on last week’s concert with Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith. The Paramount delivered a Bday cake to Dolenz right before the show. Fabulous photos by Gary Hahn. Check it out: http://www.digitaljournal.com/entertainment/music/review-micky-dolenz-of-the-monkees-celebrates-birthday-at-the-paramount/article/545143?fbclid=IwAR2srG8GZlF_rf_3eopXuOhiIuRokgRXLYmUfLf-2TXJ3sh2PUQODMoS4g0 … NBC’s The Enemy Within, with Jen Carpenter, is just sensational. It reminds of The Blacklist in its first season. Very atmospheric. We love it … Speaking of The Blacklist, it just got an early renewal for Season 7. We hope this next season is a return to form. Having the main character, Raymond Reddington, in jail all season has made for a very slow go … Coati Mundi, a good friend, posted his thoughts on the recent Leaving Neverland doc. I agree with it 100%. Take a read: https://www.facebook.com/CoatiMundi.SmallBaldAdorable/posts/10155245841974567 .. We’re taking our spring break next week … back here on 3/25.
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Jodi Ritzen; Dan Mapp; Andrew Sandoval; Rich Dart; John Billings; Craig Bierko; Donna Dolenz; Jim Kerr; Wayne Avers; William Schill; David Salidor; Debbie Gibson; and, CHIP.