"I literally turned to one of the FBI people, in a flak jacket and [with] a gun, and I went, 'Is this a joke?' " the actress remembered
The Oscar-nominated actress, 60, broke her silence about her crimes in an interview with ABC-7 Eyewitness News that aired Thursday, her first sit-down since the conspiracy in which dozens of wealthy parents of high-school students were charged with using bribery, cheating and other forms of illegal fraud to fake their kids' way into elite colleges and universities.
Back in May 2019, Huffman served 11 days in jail after she pled guilty for paying convicted scandal mastermind William "Rick" Singer $15,000 so that the results of her daughter Sophia’s SAT exam could be falsified.
"They came into my home. They woke my daughters up at gunpoint — again, nothing new to the Black and brown community," Huffman recalled. "Then they put my hands behind my back and handcuffed me and I asked if I could get dressed."
"I thought it was a hoax," she continued. "I literally turned to one of the FBI people, in a flak jacket and [with] a gun, and I went, 'Is this a joke?' "
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As Huffman learned, it wasn't. The scam unraveled thanks, in part, to the government's criminal investigation, dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues." More than 50 people were convicted in the sprawling bribery scheme, including fellow actress Lori Loughlin.
Singer, too, was sentenced — to three and a half years in prison for his crimes. He was also ordered to forfeit $10 million in January of this year.
Asked by ABC-7 why she participated in the scheme, essentially, Huffman explained that she was only thinking about her daughter’s future.
"People assume that I went into this looking for a way to cheat the system and making proverbial criminal deals in back alleys, but that was not the case," she said. "I worked with a highly recommended college counselor named Rick Singer. I worked with him for a year and trusted him implicitly; he recommended programs and tutors and he was the expert. And after a year, he started to say, 'Your daughter is not going to get into any of the colleges that she wants to.' And so I believed him."
Huffman continued, "When he slowly started to present the criminal scheme, it seemed like — and I know this seems crazy at the time — that that was my only option to give my daughter a future. I know hindsight is 20/20, but it felt like I would be a bad mother if I didn't do it. So I did it.”
"It felt like I had to give my daughter a chance at a future," she said. "And so it was sort of like my daughter's future, which meant I had to break the law."
After completing 11 days of her 14-day prison sentence in October 2019, Huffman — who also paid a $30,000 fine — completed 250 hours of community service at A New Way of Life, a nonprofit that provides aid like housing, job training and clothing to formerly incarcerated women.
She appeared on ABC-7 with organization founder Susan Burton, who remembered Huffman's desire to do real work when she first arrived there. "I thought we would bring her in and put her at a desk and have her work in the office. And she said, 'No. I want to do real work,' " said Burton.
Huffman went on to organize all of the nonprofit's closets and donations, as well as created exercise classes for the women.
She has since joined the organization's board of directors, and told the outlet she now hopes to "shine a light" on the good they're doing.
"I want to use my experience and what I've gone through and the pain to bring something good," she said. "When I saw what A New Way of Life was doing, which is they heal one woman at a time — and if you heal one woman, you heal her children, you heal her grandchildren and you heal the community."
And according to Burton, the actress has made an impact. "Felicity Huffman is one of the most beautiful people I've met in my lifetime," she said. "And I know she has had a hiccup. But it's not the hiccup — it's how you come through the hiccup."
But mostly, Huffman remains apologetic for what she's done. As she told ABC-7, "I think the people I owe a debt and apology to is the academic community. And to the students and the families that sacrifice and work really hard to get to where they are going legitimately."
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