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

New video takes viewers soaring over Cultus Lake

Posted to YouTube, the vid showcases the natural beauty of the lake and its surroundings

Permanent fish-passage solutions considered at Big Bar landslide

151,000 salmon detected this year north of site

Chilliwack Community Services ends Community Driver program

The volunteer-driven offering helped clients get to important medical appointments

CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of Sept. 27

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

105 new COVID-19 cases, 1 death as health officials urge B.C. to remember safety protocols

There are currently 1268 active cases, with 3,337 people under public health monitoring

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

National child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

‘Bonnie’ and ‘Henry’ among latest litter of service dog puppies

B.C. Alberta Guide Dogs names two pups after provincial health officer

B.C. VOTES 2020: Few solutions offered for ‘out of control’ camping

B.C. Liberals, NDP spend millions as problem keeps growing

Most Read