Breaking down the accusations parents are facing in 'Varsity Blues' scandal

Felicity Huffman, Lori Laughlin and other parents appeared in a federal court in Boston after being accused of participating in a multi-million-dollar college admissions cheating scandal.
6:10 | 04/04/19

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Transcript for Breaking down the accusations parents are facing in 'Varsity Blues' scandal
case, felicity Huffman and Lori Laughlin. Reporter: It was a blockbuster day in court for Hollywood stars felicity Huffman. And Lori Laughlin. The actresses are just two of the 50 people ensnared in the shocking college admissions cheating scandal. Many of them parents accused of doling out more than $25 million to cheat the admissions system and secure entry for their children into some of the most elite colleges from Stanford to Yale to Georgetown. The federal court house in Boston a far cry from the red carpets they're used to. You're a celebrity in this case, you've got to be worried that a judge is going to try to impose a stiffer sentence to send a message rather than a more lenient one. Reporter: Huffman best known for "Desperate housewives" somberly arrived to court today, holding hands with her brother. Felicity Huffman told the judge that yes, she understood the charges against her and the rights that she is afforded as a criminal defendant. Reporter: Laughlin of "Full house" fame. Well, he may have embellished, lied a bit on our application. Reporter: And her husband, fashion designer Massimo, who's also facing charges, pulled up in a black limo van. They emerged to the thick crowd of fans. Pay for my tuition, Lori. She actually smiled and shook hands with the prosecutors who have brought this case against her and caused such disruption in her life. Reporter: Last night, cameras caught a seemingly relaxed Laughlin signing autographs and over the weekend she was spotted leaving yoga class. Huffman washotographed shopping with her daughter. They are accused of paying big money to this man. William Rick singer to help their children illegally get into college. This is a case where they flaunted their wealth, sparing no expense. Reporter: Dubbed operation varsity blues, last month investigators said it uncovered widespread bribes to cheat on standardized tests and coaches for athletic slots, staging photos for students who never played the sport. In exchange for $400,000 accept the an applicant as a recruit for the Yale women's team despite knowing the applicant did not play competitive soccer. These prosecutors found out about it almost by accident. FBI agents were investigating a completely unrelated securities fraud case when they were tipped off about the college admissions cheating. Reporter: That tip would eventually lead authorities to singer, the college scheme's alleged master mind. Hi, my name is Rick singer, and I'm the founder of the key. As a father myself. I understand the stress the college admissions process can put on your family. Reporter: Investigators say key was a fake college non-profit in which singer funneled bribes. It enabled them to mask the true nature of the payment and take the tax writeoff at the end of the year. Reporter: In one phone call, authorities listened as singer told parents how it worked. There is a front door. The back door is institutional advancement, and I've created this side door. Prosecutors say the side door were fake identities. The credentials photo shopped, and faked college exams. He pled guilty to racketeering, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. And obstruction of justice. He also turned against his clients. One of those clients prosecutors say was Huffman. Allegedly she and her husband William H. Macy paid singer $15,000. Singer allegedly set up a rigged location in west Hollywood for their eldest daughter Sophia to take the S.A.T. And he flew in a test taker to take it. He allegedly e-mailed, ruh-ro, looks like the high school wants own proctor. She went on to score an improvement over her sat. Laughlin and her husband are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters, Isabella and yoe Livia into the sports team. I don't know why I'm so kw comfortable talking in public right now. Reporter: Both appeared to be attending as of last fall when Olivia posted this video of the two on campus together. 19 year old Olivia is a social media influencer, known as Olivia jade to her 2 million subscribers on her YouTube she had landed paid partnerships with sephora, tresemme and Amazon. But sephora and tresemme terminated their contracts with her. Her mother Lori turned herself in. One defendant intends to plead not guilty. Do you think they may face jail Some people think prosecutors should be as tough as possible to send a message that this kind of fraud really hurts. Because, as the prosecutor said at the outset, for every defendant who got into the school of their choice by cheating, someone else who may have got there through hard work was denied. Reporter: For "Nightline," Lindsey Davis in Boston, Massachusetts.

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