Among the alleged offences: six-figure bribes paid to college athletic coaches to vouch for applicants who may not have even competed in those sports, the use of stand-ins to take the all-important SAT and ACT entrance exams, and payments directed to test administrators to correct answers before submission.
Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin are among some 50 people charged in the massive scam to cheat on admission to elite U.S. universities that involved bribes, fraudulent test scores and even fake photographs. Dozens, including Huffman, the Emmy-winning star of ABC's "Desperate Housewives", were arrested by midday Tuesday.
Loughlin and fellow actress Felicity Huffman headline the list of some 50 people charged in documents unveiled in Boston that describe a scheme to cheat the admissions process at eight sought-after schools.
Mr Giannulli was released on $1 million bail. In October, Huffman was recorded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation allegedly discussing participating in the same scheme for her younger daughter; however, she did not ultimately pursue it.
Huffman later appeared in court, and was set free after posting $250,000 bail.
Huffman was in custody in Los Angeles, along with 11 others.
Fuller House star Lori Loughlin is among the defendants.
A Hallmark Channel spokeswoman said the network hasn't decided what effect, if any, her arrest will have on programming.
Prosecutors said the scheme began in 2011 and also helped children get into the University of Texas, Georgetown University, Wake Forest University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer on Tuesday pleaded guilty in Boston. A former Yale soccer coach reportedly pleaded guilty and helped build the case against others.
The alleged masterminds of the scam and parents who paid into it could all face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
"This case is about the widening corruption of elite college admissions through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud", Lelling said Tuesday.
Many other cases involved photo fraud, according to Lelling. The IRS is also investigating, since some parents allegedly disguised the bribes as charitable donations.
Prosecutors said it was up to the universities to decide what to do with students admitted through cheating. A number of the institutions moved quickly to fire or suspend the coaches and distance their name from the scandal, portraying themselves as victims.