Hollywood stars among dozens charged over college entrance scam

Actors Felicity Huffman, left, and Lori Loughlin are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. (AFP)
Updated 12 March 2019
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Hollywood stars among dozens charged over college entrance scam

  • Accused, who also include CEOs, financiers, a winemaker and fashion designer, allegedly cheated in admissions tests or arranged for bribes to get their children into prestigious schools
  • Millions paid to a bogus charity run by Californian William Rick Singer to arrange for people to fix SAT and ACT entrance exams, and also to bribe university administrators and sports coaches

NEW YORK: “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 Rick Singer millions both to arrange for people to fix SAT and ACT entrance exams for their children, and also to bribe university administrators and sports coaches to recruit their children, even when the children were not qualified to play university-level 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.
Four people accused of running the scam, and 13 officials associated with university sports and the testing system were also charged.
The payments ranged from $200,000 to $6.5 million, according to Andrew Lelling, the US attorney in Boston, Massachusetts where the case was filed.
“Wealthy parents paid Singer about 25 million dollars in total,” Lelling said.
Coaches, including the women’s soccer coach at Yale University and the sailing coach at Stanford University, took between $200,000 and $400,000 to accept the students onto their teams.
“Some simply never showed up,” he said. “Some pretended an injury and some played and then quit,” he said.
None of the students were charged and most remain at the universities, he said.
“The parents and other defendants are clearly the prime movers in this fraud.”
The investigation, which went on for one year, did not lead to charges against any universities.
“We have not seen the schools as co-conspirators,” Lelling said.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.