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Felicity Huffman to enter guilty plea early in college admissions cheating scam

A lot has happened since dozens were charged in March in the high-profile college admissions scandal.
A lot has happened since dozens were charged in March in the high-profile college admissions scandal. (Mark Gartsbeyn, Eva Maldonado, Caitlin Healy)

Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman will formally plead guilty for participating in the college admissions cheating scandal May 13, eight days earlier than expected because of a scheduling conflict with a federal prosecutor, records show.

In papers filed in US District Court in Boston, Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office said the line prosecutor will be traveling out of the country on the original sentencing date, May 21, and that Huffman’s attorney has agreed to a new date.

“The Government has conferred with defense counsel for Defendant, who has graciously consented to this request,’’ Assistant US Attorney Eric S. Rosen wrote Thursday.

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Huffman, 56, is one of the 50 people charged as part of the plot, in which wealthy parents allegedly cut fat checks to William “Rick” Singer, the admitted ringleader of the scheme, to get their children falsely certified as athletic recruits at elite colleges and universities, or to facilitate cheating on their kids’ SAT and ACT scores.

She is accused of paying $15,000 — significantly less than most of the other parents charged in the case — in 2017 to have someone proctor her daughter’s SAT exam and correct her answers afterward.

The former “Desperate Housewives” star has since become one of 14 parents who agreed Monday to plead guilty in the high-profile case, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” All of them signed plea agreements with prosecutors, who will seek prison sentences ranging from a few months to a few years, according to filings in federal court in Boston.

“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her,” Huffman said in a statement. “This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life.”

On Tuesday, Lelling’s office said Laura Janke, 36, of North Hollywood, Calif., a former assistant women’s soccer coach at USC, and Toby MacFarlane, 56, of Del Mar, Calif., a former senior executive at a title insurance company, have also decided to plead guilty.

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According to court filings, “MacFarlane paid $450,000 to facilitate the admission of his children to USC as purported athletic recruits.” Lelling’s office said that using “materials provided by MacFarlane and Singer, Janke then created a falsified soccer profile for MacFarlane’s daughter, falsely describing her as a ‘US Club Soccer All American’ in high school.”

After MacFarlane’s daughter was admitted, Singer paid $100,000 to a soccer club partly controlled by Janke, according to court papers.

Both are expected to formally plead guilty before May 30.

And Wednesday, the former head men’s tennis coach at the University of Texas at Austin pleaded guilty. Michael Center, 54, of Austin, Texas, admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud at the federal court, egal filings show.

Prosecutors have said they will seek between 15 and 21 months in prison, although they’ve agreed to ask the judge for less than that if Center provides substantial assistance in their investigation.

Center is accused of helping an applicant get into UT Austin by falsely designating the student as a tennis recruit. In exchange, he allegedly accepted a $60,000 cash payment for himself and donations totaling $40,000 to UT athletics.

Center’s attorney John H. Cunha Jr. said after Wednesday’s hearing that Center is sorry for his actions and “wants to make amends.”

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Actress Lori Loughlin is among a group of 19 parents under indictment who have pleaded not guilty through their attorneys as they fight the criminal charges.


Travis Andersen of the Globe Staff contributed to this report. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.