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Parents including two US actresses accused in a college admissions scandal have been told to be careful while discussing it with their children. A judge told defendants, including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, they should take care not to obstruct justice during family discussions.

 

Prosecutors had wanted the wealthy parents to require a lawyer present. The first group of parents accused of paying $25m (£19m) in bribes appeared in Boston federal court on Wednesday. The elaborate scheme, which aimed to acquire places for children at elite US universities, was revealed by federal investigators last month.

 

In total 50 people, including 33 parents and college athletic coaches, have been charged. The first 13 parents involved in the scandal appeared in court on Wednesday. They were told their legal rights, charges against them and possible penalties for the alleged crimes.

 

During the hearing, US Magistrate Judge M Page Kelley imposed conditions on all the defendants' bail, ordering them to surrender their passports and not to have firearms in their homes.

 

Prosecutors had wanted the accused banned from discussing the charges with their children. "The kids in these cases are witnesses and this could raise obstruction of justice issues," prosecutor Eric Rosen argued in court.

 

But Judge Kelley said: "I just don't think that's realistic." She did, however, recommend the accused seek legal advice about any such family discussions so as to avoid the risk of interfering with the case. Some of the parents charged in the scheme have started plea negotiations with prosecutors.

 

On Wednesday, packaged food entrepreneur Peter Sartorio became the first to say he will plead guilty. Desperate Housewives star Ms Huffman, 56, did not speak as she left the court. Ms Loughlin, 54, an actor in US sitcom Full House, signed autographs for fans outside.

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