BOSTON—Federal prosecutors urged a judge Monday to accept deals that call for “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin to spend 2 months in prison and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, to serve 5 months for paying half a million dollars to bribe their daughters’ way into college.
Ahead of the famous couple’s scheduled sentencing hearings Friday, prosecutors said in court filings that the proposed prison terms are comparable to the sentences other prominent parents charged in the case have received, while accounting for Loughlin and Giannulli’s “repeated and deliberate conduct” and their “decision to allow their children to become complicit in crime.”
Prosecutors called Giannulli “the more active participant in the scheme,” while they said Loughlin “took a less active role, but was nonetheless fully complicit.”
The famous couple pleaded guilty in May to paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits even though neither girl was a rower.
The defense had insisted for more than a year that they believed their payments were legitimate donations and accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.
The judge said at their plea hearings that he would decide whether to accept or reject the deals after considering the presentencing report, a document that contains background on defendants and helps guide sentencing decisions.
Unlike most plea agreements, in which the judge remains free to decide the sentence, Loughlin and Giannulli’s were built into their deals so if the judge accepts the agreements, he cannot change the prison term.
Loughlin and Giannulli have not publicly commented since their arrest last year in the case authorities call “Operation Varsity Blues.” The scheme, led by admissions consultant Rick Singer, involved including top businessmen, lawyers, and others prominent parents paying huge sums to have people take entrance exams on behalf of their kids or get them into school as fake recruits, authorities said.
Under the plea deal, Giannulli has also agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. Loughlin would pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service.
Prosecutors say they funneled money through a sham charity operated by college admissions consultant Rick Singer to get their two daughters admitted to USC. Singer, who has also pleaded guilty, began cooperating with investigators in September 2018 and secretly recorded his phone calls with parents to build the case against them.
Giannulli “engaged more frequently with Singer, directed the bribe payments to USC and Singer, and personally confronted his daughter’s high school counselor to prevent the scheme from being discovered, brazenly lying about his daughter’s athletic abilities,” prosecutors told the judge.
In that instance, Giannulli angrily confronted the counselor after after the counselor began questioning the girls’ involvement in crew, prosecutors said. Giannulli demanded that the counselor explain what he was telling USC about his daughters and asked the counselor why he was “trying to ruin or get in the way of their opportunities,” the counselor wrote in notes detailed in court documents.
After the couple successfully bribed their younger daughter’s way into USC, Singer forward them an email saying she was let in because of her “potential to make a significant contribution to the intercollegiate athletic program,” prosecutors wrote.
Loughlin responded: “This is wonderful news! (high-five emoji),” according to court filings.
Others parents who’ve been sent to prison for participating in the scam include “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman. She served nearly 2 weeks behind bars late last year after she admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone correct her daughter’s entrance exam answers.
By Alanna Durkin Richer