Judge warns US actresses in college scam

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47808530

US actress Lori Loughlin (L) and husband Mossimo Giannulli (R) leave court in Boston, Massachusetts, on 3 April 2019Image copyright
EPA

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Lori Loughlin (L) is charged with her husband Mossimo Giannulli (R)

Parents including two US actresses accused in a college admissions scandal have been warned about broaching the case with their children.

A judge told defendants including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin they should take care not to obstruct justice during family discussions.

They were among 13 wealthy parents who made their first appearances in Boston federal court on Wednesday.

Some 33 parents are charged in the investigation.

It is alleged they paid $25m (£19m) in bribes so their children could win spots in elite universities and conspired to cheat on college entrance exams.

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EPA

On Wednesday, packaged food entrepreneur Peter Sartorio became the first to say he will plead guilty.

During the hearing, US Magistrate Judge M Page Kelley imposed conditions on all the defendants’ bail, ordering them to surrender their passports and not to have firearms in their homes.

Prosecutors had wanted the accused banned from discussing the charges with their children.

“The kids in these cases are witnesses and this could raise obstruction of justice issues,” prosecutor Eric Rosen argued in court.

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Getty Images

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Fans outside the court cheered when Ms Loughlin arrived in a black van

But Judge Kelley said: “I just don’t think that’s realistic.”

She did, however, recommend the accused seek legal advice about any such family discussions so as to avoid the risk of interfering with the case.

Desperate Housewives star Ms Huffman, 56, did not speak as she left the court.

Lori Loughlin, 54, an actor in US sitcom Full House, signed autographs for fans outside court.

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AFP

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Mackenzie Thomas and Vivi Bonomie hold signs while actress Lori Loughlin attends court

Ms Loughlin is accused along with her husband of paying nearly $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters admitted to University of Southern California on rowing scholarships, even though neither student had actually participated in the sport.

Ms Huffman is accused of paying $15,000 to William “Rick” Singer – the confessed mastermind of the alleged scam – to have her daughter’s exam questions covertly corrected in 2017.

Neither actress entered a plea, but both said they understood the charges against them.

The pair have not commented publicly since the scandal.

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