Federal prosecutors have cast a wide net to snare parents, students and others caught up in the nationwide college admissions scandal. As such, some California parents and their children who attend top schools like the University of Southern California (USC) have found themselves under scrutiny.

A Laguna Beach resident who works in the finance sector and a wealthy heiress from Newport Beach are two of 16 individuals — some of whom are award-winning actors — who were indicted recently on felony charges of fraud, conspiracy and money-laundering. The charges stem from revelations about the college admissions scandal that federal prosecutors allege involves wealthy and influential parents around the nation.

No pleas, more charges

The California residents were indicted just a day after a dozen parents and a coach entered guilty pleas for their roles in the alleged scheme.

Some of those who did not accept guilty pleas were hit with additional indictments that were unsealed in April. As such, these defendants could potentially face longer stints in prison and heftier fines and other penalties should they be convicted.

Bribes lead to resignations

The financier stands accused of paying out bribes to get two of his college-aged kids into USC. The heiress also faces charges for trying to bribe her daughters’ way into premium colleges.

As a result of these allegations, the above two individuals submitted their resignations for the private Sage Hill School’s board of trustees in Newport Coast.

California man oversaw scheme

According to authorities involved in the case, the scam was the brainchild of a college admissions consultant here in California. William “Rick” Singer took a guilty plea to charges that he created the scam and bribed college coaches to “recruit” non-athlete students who were sons and daughters of the bribe-paying parents to secure them spots at top-tier universities.

Scam raked in millions

At least 50 people face accusations by prosecutors of involvement in various schemes of bribery and cheating that resulted in an alleged $25 million in illegal payments.

The problem with pleas

A former federal prosecutor who is now a law professor at a California university perceives that prosecutors in these cases are too eager to “plea pressure” defendants by threatening them with even more charges unless they agree to plead out their present cases.

He says that money laundering is an “elastic charge” that’s often stretched to include additional crimes whenever money is exchanged during an alleged crime.

Should prosecutors choose to drop the money-laundering charges, it might be viewed as if cooperating with prosecutors is the way to make the case go in a certain direction, one Los Angeles-based criminal defense attorney stated. It’s “sending a clear message to the defense they better make a decision quickly in what direction they want the prosecution to go.”

Far-reaching consequences of charges

It’s unclear exactly what repercussions the affected students will face, or even if any were aware of their parents’ machinations to get them admitted to the schools of their choice. However, anyone facing serious white-collar felony charges should begin building a stalwart defense to the charges. This is important, as a plea bargain is never a given in any court case even if it eventually resolves the case.