The college admissions process is intimidating enough even without your mother going to prison for not believing in you. Four years after doing just that to her daughter Sophia Grace, Felicity Huffman is speaking out for the first time about her role in the infamous Varsity Blues scandal, which saw a number of influential parents charged with paying huge sums of money to falsify their children’s test scores and bribe officials for seats at top colleges.
“It felt like I had to give my daughter a chance at a future,” the Desperate Housewives actress, who served 11 days in prison for her actions, told ABC7. “And so it was sort of like my daughter’s future, which meant I had to break the law.”
“She was going, ‘Can we get ice cream afterwards? I’m scared about the test. What can we do that’s fun?’” Huffman continued, recalling her daughter’s unknowing anxiety about the upcoming SAT. “I kept thinking, turn around, just turn around. And to my undying shame, I didn’t.” Instead, Huffman was one of a number of wealthy parents, including Full House’s Lori Laughlin, who had paid “admission consultant” and con man Rick Singer $15,000 to falsify her child’s test results.
Even though she initially came to Singer believing he was the real deal, soon, she says, she was taken in by his scheme. “After a year, he started to say your daughter is not going to get into any of the colleges that she wants to, and I believed him,” she shared. “So when he slowly started to present the criminal scheme, it seems like—and I know this seems crazy at the time—but that was my only option to give my daughter a future.”
Not so much. Huffman’s decision eventually led to a late-night visit from the FBI at her and her husband William H. Macy’s home. “They came into my home. They woke my daughters up at gunpoint. Again, nothing new to the Black and brown community. Then they put my hands behind my back and handcuffed me and I asked if I could get dressed,” she said. “I thought it was a hoax. I literally turned to one of the FBI people, in a flak jacket and a gun, and I went, is this a joke?”
Still, it sounds like everyone involved is starting to heal from the experience. Huffman’s daughter retook the SAT (for real this time) and is now studying at Carnegie Mellon University. As for Huffman, she’s decided to speak out after all this time because she’s gotten more involved with an organization called A New Way Of Life where she originally did her court-ordered community service. A New Way Of Life helps women get back on their feet after serving prison time. “I want to use my experience and what I’ve gone through and the pain to bring something good,” Huffman said of her continuing work.