Actress Felicity Huffman. File photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni.

Washington - Dozens of wealthy Americans, including two television actresses, were charged Tuesday in an alleged nationwide scheme to get their children admitted to elite US colleges.

Thirty-three parents who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for fake documents needed for admission to schools such as Yale, Stanford and Georgetown were among those charged, the Justice Department said.

The scheme involved fake test scores, fake athletic credentials and other falsified admissions documents.

The two actresses charged are Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives" and Lori Loughlin of "Full House." The other wealthy Americans included a fashion designer and the chairman of global law firm.

"The parents charged today despite already being able to give their children every legitimate advantage in the college admissions game instead chose to corrupt and illegally manipulate the system for their benefit," US attorney Andrew Lelling said at a news conference.

The parents were among 50 people arrested in the alleged scheme, which also involved bribes paid to coaches.

Lelling said the alleged mastermind of the scheme, William "Rick" Singer, was expected to plead guilty to racketeering, several counts of conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The amount of money involved in the case was estimated to be 25 million dollars.

Singer allegedly funnelled the money through a fake charity to which the parents paid money to ensure their children had the required credentials for admissions, according to investigators.

Authorities said the system robbed honest and genuinely talented students a chance to study at the elite schools.

dpa