Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli plead not guilty in college admissions scandal
According to federal court filings, 'Full House' actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering in the college admissions bribery scandal. The signed documents also reveal that they waived their right to appear in court for an arraignment on the money laundering charge.
The FBI charged 50 individuals overall for their involvement in a $25 million nationwide scheme to get the children of wealthy parents into prestigious colleges through cheating and bribery. Concocted by Newport Beach businessman Rick Singer, the scam was two-fold: Some parents paid SAT administrators to inflate students' test scores, while others paid college officials to falsely designate and recruit students as star athletes. In the event they did not play the sport, photos were staged or fabricated.
"For every student admitted through fraud an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected," US Attorney Andrew Lelling stated at a news conference.
33 wealthy parents were charged in total, mostly high-ranking business executives, but television stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin quickly became the face of the scandal.
Huffman, best known for her role on Desperate Housewives, is accused of spending $15,000 for a proctor to doctor her daughter's SAT score. Meanwhile, Loughlin and Giannulli are accused spending $500,000 to get their two daughters into USC as athletic recruits on the crew team, although neither girl participated in the sport. The criminal complaint includes includes evidence from a cooperating witness, emails, bank records, recored phone calls and a staged "action picture" of the Loughlin-Giannulli daughters on ergometers, aka rowing machines.
Huffman was among the 13 parents who agreed last week to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. "I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community," Huffman said in a statement. "I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly."
Loughlin and Giannulli are among the 15 parents who did not say they would be guilty, and were charged one day later with a count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Each charge has a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, which means Loughlin and company face the possibility of 40 years behind bars.
Legal experts say that prosecutors are using a "carrot-and-stick" approach with the defendants. "The carrot is, 'take a quick plea and get your best shot at a lower sentence,'" legal analyst Elie Honig told CNN. "And the stick is, 'we have additional charges that we'll bring if you don't plead by that date.'"
A source close to Loughlin told E! News, "She has been in complete denial and thought maybe she could skate by. She refused to accept any jail time and thought the DA was bluffing. She was adamant she wouldn't do any jail time." However, after the additional federal charge, the 54-year-old actress reportedly changed her tune. "Lori is finally realizing just how serious this is," said the insider. "She is seeing the light that she will do jail time and is freaking out."
Meanwhile, another source told People that Loughlin didn't feel like she had done anything wrong. "From the beginning, she didn’t want to take a deal, because she felt that she hadn’t done anything that any mom wouldn’t have done, if they had the means to do so," said the insider. "So this wasn’t her being obstinate; this was her truly not understanding the seriousness of the allegations."
As a result of the scandal, The Hallmark Channel cut all ties with Loughlin, and Sephora canceled a partnership with her youngest daughter, YouTube "influencer" Olivia Jade Giannulli. The criminal complaint does not state whether or not any of the children were aware of their actions. In the meantime, USC has put all students tied to the scandal on academic hold.