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Tuesday 26 March 2019

Desperate Housewives' Felicity takes on unwanted role - accused in rich kids college fraud scandal

Felicity Huffman at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Reuters
Felicity Huffman at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. Photo: Reuters

As an Emmy winner and Oscar nominee, Felicity Huffman is known as one of Hollywood's most versatile actresses, as well as half of a star couple with husband William H Macy.

While Lori Loughlin's work might not be as acclaimed, her face may be even better known.

She gained fame for her role as the wholesome Aunt Becky in the 1990s sitcom Full House, and is the queen of the Hallmark channel with her holiday movies and the series When Calls The Heart.

This week, though, both actresses are taking centre stage among dozens of alleged conspirators in a scheme which federal prosecutors say saw wealthy parents pay bribes to get their children into some of the US's top colleges.

Designer

Former Desperate Housewives star Huffman (56) was released by a Los Angeles judge on Tuesday after posting a $250,000 (¤221,000) bond.

Loughlin (54) has not yet been arrested but her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, was released after posting a $1m (¤884,000) bond. He left without answering reporters' questions.

Huffman briefly appeared in the lobby of the courthouse on Tuesday evening as she prepared to leave but she retreated to a lift with courthouse security officers after seeing a mass of cameras posted at the front door. Officers later told journalists she was no longer in the building.

Authorities have not said why Macy (69), who has starred for the last several years in the Showtime series Shameless and was an Oscar nominee for the 1996 movie Fargo, has not been charged. He sat in the courtroom where Huffman had her first appearance and appeared to read legal documents during the proceedings.

Huffman, who wore glasses and her hair in a ponytail, looked over at her husband repeatedly during the hearing.

Her attorney cited her community ties and asked that the actress be released on her own recognisance.

"She's simply not the kind of person who is going to become an international fugitive," her attorney Evan A Jeaness said.

Court documents allege that the couple agreed to the plan, and Huffman paid $15,000, disguised as a charitable donation, toward the scam. Macy recently described the application process for their daughter Sofia (18) to Parade magazine.

"I'm the outlier in this thing," said the actor, who also has another teenage daughter, Georgia, with Huffman.

"We're right now in the thick of college application time, which is so stressful. I am voting that once she gets accepted, she maybe takes a year off. But it's just my opinion, and we'll see what she wants to do, what Felicity thinks and how the chips fall."

When the charges emerged, playwright David Mamet wrote an open letter, published by The Hollywood Reporter, in support of Macy and Huffman, who are long-time friends of his.

"The unqualified may be accepted for many reasons, among them as legacies, and on account of large donations made by their parents," Mamet wrote. "I do not see the difference between getting a kid into school by bribing the building committee, and by bribing someone else. But, apparently, the second is against the law. So be it."

Huffman and Giannulli have been ordered to appear for arraignment in a Boston courthouse on March 29.

Loughlin married Giannulli, her second husband, in 1997. Court documents allege the couple paid $500,000 to have their two daughters labelled as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, even though neither is a rower.

Their 19-year-old daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, is a celebrity in her own right.

Her YouTube channel has nearly two million followers, and she has more than a million followers on Instagram.

She often touts brands in paid ads on her accounts, and since last autumn has been posting about her student life at USC. In one YouTube post, she talked about the difficulty of juggling her career with school.

She added that she was going to school for the partying, not academics: "I don't really care about school, as all you guys know." She later apologised.

In an interview with the website TheBlast.com, she said she decided to go to college despite her fame because of her parents.

Inseparable

"Mostly my parents really wanted me to go, because both of them didn't go to college," she said. "They didn't make me. My sister goes to the same school, and we're pretty much inseparable, so it was nice following in her footsteps a little bit."

Loughlin went straight into acting after high school, appearing on the soap opera The Edge Of Night. She became a star on Full House, a standout hit of ABC's family-friendly TGIF line-up in the early 1990s.

Huffman began her career on stage, appearing in Mamet's Speed The Plow on Broadway. She transitioned to television on 1990s series Sports Night. Huffman won an Emmy for her role in Desperate Housewives and was nominated for an Oscar for best actress for her role as a transgender woman in 2005's Transamerica.

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