College admissions scandal ensnares celebs, CEOs

Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among dozens of parents facing felony charges in what investigators say is the largest-ever college admissions cheating scam.
8:56 | 03/13/19

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Transcript for College admissions scandal ensnares celebs, CEOs
Boy, we want to get right to that breathtaking college entrance scam. $25 million, 50 people charged. Saw that felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin have been charged as well and seen test administrators and coaches at elite private schools. The accusation range from paying thousands of dollars for higher S.A.T. Scores or presenting them as top athletes at sports they never played. It's enraging. Some faked disabilities and ethnicity so their children could get special privilege to get into the top tier schools like Yale and Stanford. Raising a big debate. Whether the whole system is rigged for those who have wealth and privilege. We want to go straight to ABC's Eva pilgrim who starts us off at Yale university. Good morning, Eva. Reporter: Good morning. It's the largest ever college admissions cheating scam exposed. 300 agents across six state, wiretap, a year-long sting. This morning, 50 people arrested. Most of them wealthy parents all accused of trying to do the same thing, getting their kids into some of the most elite schools in the country. "Operation varsity blues," the massive sting exposing the ugly truth that admission to college can be bought, bartered and stolen for some. The scandal ensnaing actresses felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin who along with dozens of other wealthy parents are accused of breaking the law so their kids could get ahead. The FBI uncover what had we believe is a rigged system. Robbing students all over the country of their right at a fair shot to getting into some of the most elite universities in this country. Reporter: The elaborate scam allegedly involved fake athletic credential, photoshopping pictures, cheating on standardized tests and some parents spending upwards of $6 million in bribes. Huffman and Loughlin just 2 of 33 parents facing felony charges after allegedly doing whatever it takes to get their kids into top schools like Yale, wake forest, Georgetown and the university of souther California. You're asking for a bribe? Are you pretending you are you are above that. I've got my checkbook. Reporter: Huffman stands accused of paying $15,000 to bride an S.A.T. Administrator while Loughlin and her husband allegedly put up half a million dollars in exchange for getting their two daughters recruited to the usc crew team even though they did not participate in crew. At the center of the scandal is this man, William singer, a businessman who ran the edge college and career network also known as the key. Pleading guilty to charges including money dawn learning and obstruction of justice now a cooperating witness. In one phone call authorities listened as singer told one parent how it all worked saying, there's a front door which means you get in on your own. The back door is through institutional advancement which is T times as much money and I've created this side door. Prosecutors say that side door included $25 million in bribes and a web of lies. Fake disabilities, those fake athletic credentials highlighted with photoshopped pictures and fake scores on college entrance exams like the A.C.T. And S.A.T. The scheme included controlled private test centers where a stand-ouould take the test or a test administrator could coach or change the answers. Singer allegedly also bribed coaches on behalf of parents to designate their children for admission spots for recruits pretending the students were accomplished athletes. In one instance a parent sending that photo showing their daughter playing water polo in high school but in fact the photo was anoth student. A wiretapped transcript details a father and singer creating a plan to trick usc into thinking his son was a football kicker. The father laughing telling singer, that's just totally hilarious admitting his son's high school doesn't have a football team. Prosecutors say the bribes hidden disguised as charitable donations to key worldwide foundation, singer's nonprofit, a tax write-off. Parents of students who applied though those schools but did not get in reacting overnight. One tweeting, makes me feel good that my son was waitlisted at Stanford and rensselaer poly. He did it on his own but probably lost out to one of these kids. Those kids' parents facing jail time include vin ward owners and entrepreneurs like Todd Blake who tweeted his excitement over admission to usc and Jane Buckingham who posted this, don't cheat, it reads. Now, the students are not facing any charges at this time. Investigators say most of them had no idea what their parents did to help them get into their top schools, George. Most but not all and, Eva, this is not the end of the story. Reporter: That's what we're hearing. Investigators say that there are more parents and coaches involved. This case is far from over. So we can expect to see more charges coming eventually, George. Let's bring in Dan Abrams for more on this. You got to take a step back and say, wow, the scale of this scam, the scale of the takedown just astonishing. It's amazing because what would happen is this guy would allegedly come up with a specifically crafted solution for each parent's issue so in this case you need a little help on the S.A.T.S, okay, we'll deal with the proctor and deal with some of your answer, you know what, you want to make your kid a crew recruit, we can do that too. There wa different solution for every parent and as a result there each charged with different types of crime. The U.S. Attorney almost discovered it by accident. In the context of another investigation. Let's look at the parents and how they could have gotten away with this for so long. Parents who already have some advantages but they're looking for that extra edge and get a tax deduction to boot. Eight-year investigation and you have to wonder whether there's going to be additional charges in connection with tax fraud, right? Because they took deductions on some of these quote/unquote donations as well, so there could be state tax charges, et cetera. The fact that this was a nonprofit that was set up just makes it that much more egregious, right? The parents would donate moaning to a not for profit and that's what makes it so clear that they had to have known what was happening. That's going to be the potential defense in a case like this. It's going to be I didn't realize that this was happening. I didn't realize they were going out and bribing coaches. They have tapes. They have tapes but, look, that still could be a potential defense here, depends what's on the tapes but in a case like this where lack of intent is going to be the defense, that's why the tapes become owe important. The U.S. Attorneys have a key witness right here. The ringleader. And the soccer coach turned as well. One of the soccer coaches. They have a number of critical witnesses. They're making deals it seems with a number of them. Wait a second. Don't prosecutors make a deal with the person -- they don't typically make a deal with the person at the top. They think the parents are the top of the pyramid here and maybe these other people were working for them. What about the students? We know that some may have known about this, not all, but some may -- do they get to stay? They're already in school. First of all if they knew and were part of this they could end up getting charged. If they were part of the fraud. How do you not know if someone sitting next to you -- They would give them extra time and go in and change the answers after the fact. The proctors would. So that was how they wouldn't have necessarily known but question two is going to be on the university's part, what do they do about someone who got a thousand on their sat, suddenly got a 14 something on the S.A.T. Based on the help that they got, what if the student is doing okay in school? Do they still kick him out? What if they graduated and got a degree already. Right, so there are a lot of interesting questions these university also have to deal with. One thing, this middleman was basically cutting the universities out of it. The universities make deal with parents all the time. The question is going to be, should the universities have any liability here, right? And so far what we know is it was individual, the university is now firing a bunch of people and coach, et cetera. They will say we didn't know about it. The next question is going to be should they have known about it? So many strands to the story. Thanks very much. We'll have a lot more on it

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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