Friday, June 5, 2020

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli agree to plead guilty in college admissions scam

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Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with the college admissions scandal, the Department of Justice announced Thursday. Loughlin and Giannulli are the 23rd and 24th parents to plead guilty in the case.

Loughlin, 55, has agreed to two months in prison, a $150,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service.

Giannulli, 56, has agreed to five months in prison, a $250,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 250 hours of community service. Both punishments are subject to the court’s approval.

They are scheduled to plead guilty on Friday at 11:30 a.m., according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Massachusetts.

“Loughlin will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, while Giannulli will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud,” reads a Justice Department press release.

“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. We will continue to pursue accountability for undermining the integrity of college admissions,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.

The couple is accused of paying $500,000 to secure their two daughters admission to the University of Southern California, USC, by masquerading them as potential athletic recruits. A fake resume for their daughter Olivia Jade, a YouTube star, shows the couple pretended Jade was an accomplished rower.

The bogus document details an elaborate list of rowing accolades, including gold medals and top 15 finishes in the Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, one of rowing’s most prestigious events. All the achievements could have been easily checked out, but USC’s associate athletic director at the time, Donna Heinel, is accused of being in on the scam.

Attorneys for Loughlin and Giannulli originally said the couple did nothing wrong and the half-million dollars they paid were “legitimate donations.” A motion to dismiss their charges altogether was denied earlier this month. The couple’s attorneys argued that federal agents had coached William “Rick” Singer, the alleged ringleader of the scheme, to “bend the truth,” but U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton ruled the prosecutors’ actions did not constitute misconduct.

According to the court documents, government agents approached Singer six months into the investigation, and he agreed to wear a wiretap and discuss the alleged bribery. On October 2, 2018, Singer wrote in his iPhone Notes app that government agents “strong-armed” him and instructed him to lie to elicit incriminating information, the court documents said. The government has since admitted this was a mistake.

Loughlin and Giannulli were part of a large group of parents who used the Singer’s services as a purported college admissions advisor. More than 50 parents and college officials have been accused of participating in the scam, believed to be the biggest college admissions scandal in U.S. history.

At least 20 parents have already pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the scandal, including actress Felicity Huffman, who has served her 14-day sentence.

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