Felicity Huffman pleads guilty to fraud after paying official to cheat on daughter’s university entrance exam

Felicity Huffman, the American actress, on Monday pleaded guilty to paying for someone to cheat on her daughter’s university entrance exam.

Huffman, 56, entered her plea at a court in Boston and apologised to other students affected by what she did.

She became the highest profile person to admit their role in a widespread bribery and cheating scandal that saw wealthy parents break the law to get their children into prestigious educational establishments.

The Emmy-winning star of "Desperate Housewives," paid $15,000 to have a invigilator secretly correct her daughter’s answers on the exam.

She was arrested two months ago in an investigation codenamed "Operation Varsity Blues".

In court Huffman pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and honest services mail fraud.

She faces a possible jail term and will be sentenced on September 13.

Prosecutors have recommended in a plea agreement that she be jailed for between four and 10 months, and that she pay a fine of $20,000.

The actress broke down in tears as she addressed the court, confirming her name when asked by Judge Indira Talwani.

Asked if she understood she had a right to plead not guilty Huffman said: "Yes, your Honour."

Huffman, wearing a dark suit, also said she understood pleading guilty meant losing her right to vote.

She has apologised, expressing "deep regret and shame," and said her 18-year-old daughter was unaware of her actions.

The test centre where her daughter’s exam took place was controlled by Rick Singer, a California-based admissions consultant, who pleaded guilty in March to charges that he facilitated cheating.

At least 50 people have been accused of taking part in the scheme with parents handing over a total of $25 million, over seven years, to get their children into universities including Yale, Stanford, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.

Strategies included paying invigilators to fix answers, and allowing impostors to sit the exams.

Sports coaches at universities were also bribed to get youngsters with little talent accepted as recruits for teams.

More than a dozen parents have agreed to plead guilty in the biggest university admissions scandal ever brought to court in the US.

Huffman was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role in the 2005 film "Transamerica".

She is married to William H. Macy, 69, star of the television show "Shameless" and numerous Hollywood films including Fargo.

Police said Macy was with his wife when Singer explained how the scam worked. But he has not been charged and prosecutors have not indicated why.

The conviction is expected to harm Huffman’s career.

Netflix said a film starring the actress called "Otherhood" would not be released as planned in April.

Other parents have decided to fight the criminal charges.

Lori Loughlin, another US television actress, and Mossimo Giannulli, her fashion designer husband, have pleaded not guilty to paying $500,000 in bribes.

They are accused of paying the money to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as rowing recruits, even though neither of them were rowers.

In a statement before her plea Huffman said: "I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.

"I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community."

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