FILE - In this April 3, 2019, file photo, actress Lori Loughlin, front, and her husband, clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, left, depart federal court in Boston after a hearing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. On Thursday, May 21, 2020, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said Loughlin and Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to charges of trying to secure the fraudulent admission of their two children to the University of Southern California as purported athletic recruits. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)

Lori Loughlin, Mossimo Giannulli to serve prison time for college scam

Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, are scheduled to plead guilty Friday

“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin has agreed to serve two months behind bars and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, has agreed to serve five months as part of a deal to plead guilty to cheating the college admissions process, according to court papers filed Thursday.

Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, are scheduled to plead guilty Friday via video conference before a federal judge in Boston, who must approve the deal.

It’s a stunning reversal for the famous couple who insisted for the last year they were innocent and that investigators had fabricated evidence against them. Their decision comes about two weeks after the judge rejected their bid to dismiss the case over allegations of misconduct by federal authorities.

“I think they made a calculated assessment that the risks were just too great” to bring the case to trial, said former federal prosecutor Bradley Simon.

They were scheduled to go to trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport. They helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending the admitted ringleader of the scheme, admissions consultant Rick Singer, photos of the teens posing on rowing machines, authorities said.

READ MORE: B.C. mom gets time served for $400K college admissions bribe

Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli had argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or support Singer’s charity. They also accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.

They agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in a plea agreement filed in Boston’s federal court. Giannulli will also plead guilty to a charge of honest services wire and mail fraud, prosecutors said. Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss charges of money laundering and federal programs bribery that were added after the case was filed.

Under Loughlin’s plea deal, she will also pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. Giannulli has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.

Simon said the couple’s lawyers may think that Loughlin and Giannulli have a chance of avoiding prison altogether and serving their punishments at home because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General William Barr has ordered the Bureau of Prisons to increase the use of home confinement and expedite the release of eligible high-risk inmates because of the virus crisis. The pandemic has already delayed the prison sentences of some parents who have pleaded guilty in the college admissions case and allowed others to go home early.

“It may have been a very clever move by the lawyers,” said Simon, now with the firm Windels Marx in New York.

Prosecutors were also facing the risk of embarrassment if they lost the high-profile case, and the couple’s attorneys had raised some viable lines of defence for trial, said former assistant U.S. attorney Jeff Cramer.

“For both sides, from the prosecutors’ side and the defence side, I think this is a fair outcome,” said Cramer, now managing director of Berkeley Research Group consulting firm.

An attorney for the couple declined to comment.

Loughlin and Giannulli were among 50 people arrested last year in the case dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” that rocked the word of higher education. They are the 23rd and 24th parents to plead guilty in the case.

The case uncovered a scheme in which wealthy parents paid huge sums to secure students’ admission at elite schools as fake athletic recruits or have someone cheat on their entrance exams, authorities said.

READ MORE: Loughlin, husband and 14 more parents face new charge in U.S. college bribery scam

U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office will “continue to pursue accountability for undermining the integrity of college admissions.”

“Under the plea agreements filed today, these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process and which are consistent with prior sentences in this case,” he said in an emailed statement.

Others parents who’ve been sent to prison for participating in the scam include “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman. She served nearly two weeks behind bars late last year after she admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone correct her daughter’s entrance exam answers.

California winemaker Agustin Huneeus Jr., who also pleaded guilty, was released from his five-month prison term two weeks early in March because of the public health crisis.

The judge has allowed other parents, including the heiress to the Hot Pockets fortune, to put off their prison sentences because of the virus outbreak.

Michelle Janavs, whose family invented Hot Pockets, and Douglas Hodge, the ex-CEO of Pacific Investment Management Co., are allowed to remain free until at least June 30, the judge ruled. The judge said he would consider further delays if the virus crisis hasn’t lessened by then.

Janavs was sentenced to five months and Hodge was sentenced to nine months.

___

Alanna Durkin Richer, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

college admission scandal

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Victoria expecting a 2020 deficit between $12.5 to $17.5 million

Victoria lost $1.2 million per month just from reduced parking fees during onset of pandemic

Saanich police search for potential victims, witnesses after series of unprovoked assaults

Police are looking for more information about two incidents from June 12

PHOTOS: Small crowd gathers to watch 231-tonne stacker-reclaimer loaded onto barge

The Dynamic Beast barge crane, known for work with Johnson Street Bridge, makes a return

Greater Victoria Point-in-Time count finds over 1,500 people homeless

Capital Regional District says count should be treated as an underestimate

Newly appointed Resilient Saanich committee to weigh in on new environmental policy framework

Council selects nine members, First Nations representative position remains open

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Don’t leave your hand sanitizer in the sun and other tips to stay COVID safe this summer

Being mindful of staying outside and keeping hand sanitizer, sunscreen out of the sun recommended

What exactly is ‘old growth’ B.C. forest, and how much is protected?

Forests minister Doug Donaldson doesn’t support ‘moratorium’

Canadians can travel to Hawaii in September; no quarantine with negative COVID test

Travellers will be required to pay for their own tests prior to arriving

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

Most Read