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VOL. 44 | NO. 21 | Friday, May 22, 2020

Loughlin, Giannulli to serve prison time for college scam

The Associated Press

Updated 10:00AM
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"Full House" Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to serve prison time as part of a plea deal in the college admissions bribery case, according to court papers filed Thursday.

Loughlin, 55, has agreed to serve two months behind bars and Giannulli, 56, has agreed to serve five months under the deal that must be approved by the judge. They are scheduled to plead guilty Friday via video conference.

The famous couple was 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.

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.

Earlier this month, the judge rejected their bid to dismiss the case over allegations of misconduct by FBI agents investigating the scam.

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.

"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," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in an emailed statement. "We will continue to pursue accountability for undermining the integrity of college admissions."

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.

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.

The coronavirus pandemic has delayed the prison sentences of some parents and allowed others to go home early.

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.

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