Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin have appeared in federal court alongside other wealthy parents to face charges they rigged test scores or paid bribes to cheat the admissions process at prestigious universities.
The actresses and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, said little during the brief hearing in a packed Boston courtroom on Wednesday and were not asked to enter a plea. They are all free on bail.
Their appearance comes three weeks after they were among dozens of prominent parents and college sports coaches arrested in connection with an admissions scandal.
It sparked outrage and inflamed concerns that the admissions process favours the wealthy.
The alleged scam involved bogus entrance exam scores and doctored photos to make applicants look like star athletes to get them into sought-after universities such as Yale.
Loughlin, who is best known for playing Aunt Becky on the sitcom Full House, and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 (£380,000) to get their daughters admitted as recruits to a university crew team, even though neither is a rower.
Authorities say the couple helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by having them pose for photos on rowing machines.
The Hallmark Channel — where Loughlin starred in popular holiday movies — cut ties with Loughlin a day after her arrest.
Desperate Housewives star Huffman is charged with paying the admissions consultant at the centre of the scheme $15,000 (£11,400) to have a proctor cheat on her daughter’s SAT exam.
Authorities say the consultant, Rick Singer, met with Huffman and her husband, actor William H Macy, at their Los Angeles home and explained to them that he “controlled” a testing centre and could have somebody secretly change their daughter’s answers, authorities say.
Huffman and Macy agreed to the plan, Singer told investigators. Macy was not charged; authorities have not said why.
Huffman, Loughlin and Giannulli have not publicly addressed the allegations.
They and the other parents are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, which carries up to 20 years in behind bars.
But first-time offenders typically get only a fraction of that, and experts said they believe some parents may avoid prison time if they quickly agree to plead guilty.
Other parents charged in the scheme include the former co-chairman of an international law firm and the former head of a Silicon Valley venture capital firm.