High-profile US actors, businesspeople charged in college admissions bribery scandal

A group of wealthy US parents were charged with fraud after an investigation found they gained college admission for their children through bribery.

US Attourney Andrew Lelling said the operation, named Operation Varsity Blues, uncovered US$25 million (NZ$36.5m) of fraud involving around 50 people.

He told the Associated Press (AP) the parents involved were "a catalogue of wealth and privilege".

AP reported at least nine athletic coaches and 33 parents were among those charged in the operation where the coaches would be paid to label the children as 'recruited athletes' and alter test scores to boost admission chances.

Parents spent anywhere from US$200,000 (NZ$292,000) to US$6.5 million (NZ$9.5m) to guarantee their children's admission, officials told the AP.

"For every student admitted through fraud, an honest and genuinely talented student was rejected," Lelling said.

It is alleged the bribes came through a third-party operating as an 'admissions consulting company' in Newport Beach, California.

Prosecutors said the owner of this company, William Singer, was expected to plead guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy.

Lori Laughlin, an actress from Full House and Felicity Huffman from Desparate Housewives were both charged with fraud and conspiracy in the bust.