Federal Prosecutors argued Monday that Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli deserve prison time for cheating to get their daughters into the University of Southern California.
The US Attorney’s Office urged a judge to stick to the terms of a plea agreement struck with the embattled couple in May and sentence Giannulli to five months in prison and Loughlin to two, court documents show.
The pair had previously been facing up to 40 years behind bars each for paying Rick Singer, the scheme’s mastermind, $500,000 to pass their daughters Olivia Jade and Isabella off as rowing stars to USC officials when neither had ever been involved in the sport.
They were arrested in March 2019 along with 50 other parents including actress Felicity Huffman.
Loughlin and Giannulli are due to be sentenced on Friday. Each pleaded to a guilty charge of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, as part of the deal in May.
Both had been facing additional charges – conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery; conspiracy to commit money laundering – that were later dropped.
The couple initially protested their innocence when they were charged, insisting they thought they were donating the money to charity and accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could help prove their innocence.
On Monday, the prosecution argued that the agreed sentences in the plea deal are consisted with those given to other defendants in the sprawling case, and also fairly reflect the seriousness of the charge – which can carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.
‘The crime Giannulli and Loughlin committed was serious,’ the prosecutors wrote. ‘Over the course of two years, they engaged twice in Singer’s fraudulent scheme. They involved both their daughters in the fraud, directing them to pose in staged photographs for use in fake athletic profiles and instructing one daughter how to conceal the scheme from her high school counselor.’
Prosecutors also argued that Giannulli deserved a harsher sentence than his wife, because he played a more active role in the conspiracy, even ‘brazenly lying’ to one of his daughter’s school counselors about her athletic ability.
‘Loughlin took a less active role, but was nonetheless fully complicit, eagerly enlisting Singer a second time for her younger daughter, and coaching her daughter not to “say too much” to her high school’s legitimate college counselor, lest he catch on to their fraud,’ the prosecutors wrote.
In that instance, Giannulli is said to have demanded the counselor to explain what he was telling USC about his daughters and asked them why he was ‘trying to ruin or get in the way of their opportunities’.
During their plea hearing, the judge said he would decide whether to accept or reject the deals after considering the pre-sentencing report, a document contained background information on the defendants and helps to guide sentencing decisions.
Unlike most plea agreements, whereby traditionally the judge remains free to decide the sentence, Loughlin and Giannulli’s sentences were built into the deals and therefore cannot be changed.
The couple have not publicly commented since their arrests last year in the case, which authorities refer to as ‘Operation Varsity Blues’.
The fraudulent scheme, led by USC admissions consultant Rick Singer, involved dozens of top businessmen, lawyers and other parents of prominence paying large sums of cash to have others take their children’s entrance exams or get them into the school as fake recruits for various sports teams.
Under the plea deal, Giannulli has also agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. Loughlin, meanwhile, would pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service.
Prosecutors say the couple funneled money through a sham charity set up by Singer to secure their daughters’ admission.
Singer, who pleaded guilty to masterminding the scheme in September 2018, later began cooperating with investigators, even secretly recording his phone calls with parents to build cases against them.
After successfully bribing one of their daughter’s way into USC, Singer emailed the couple to inform them she had been accepted because of her ‘potential to make a significant contribution to the intercollegiate athletic program.’
Loughlin allegedly responded ‘This is wonderful news!’ accompanied by a high-five emoji.
Others parents who’ve been sent to prison for participating in the scam include Felicity Huffman.
The Desperate Housewives star 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 harshest sentence was handed to Douglas Hodge, who was given nine months for his role.
He paid bribes totaling $850,000 – from 2008 until 2012 – to get four of his children into the University of Southern California and Georgetown University as fake athletic recruits, prosecutors said.
Others have ranged between just one day behind bars to a probation only sentences to sentences of a few weeks or months.
Ahead of their possible jail terms, Olivia Jade, a YouTuber star, is said to be planning a special going away party for her parents.
‘The family are facing this head on. They are not pretending that it isn’t happening and not burying their heads in the sand. Rather, close friends and family are set to gather on Thursday evening at the family’s home to say goodbye,’ a source told OK Magazine.
‘It is like a ‘mommy going to jail’ party, along with drinks and a cake (presumably without a file in it!),’ the unnamed individual continued.
The insider added that the event will not be catered by an outside company because they want to keep the affair ‘very private’.
The 20-year-old influencer is also said to be relieved to finally start putting the admissions scandal behind her.
Both Olivia Jade and her older sister Bella were said to be ‘devastated’ when their parents accepted the plea.
The two girls reported fell out with their parents after the scandal was made public, but in the months since they’ve reportedly become a ‘tight-knit’ unit again.
Though they are still enrolled at USC, Olivia Jade and Bella Giannulli were kicked out of Kappa Kappa Gamma in July last year.
‘Olivia and Bella were both in Kappa Kappa Gamma and the sorority has since kicked them out and is trying to distance themselves from the situation as much as possible,’ a source told US Weekly.
USC did not allow either girl to withdraw from their studies. Instead, it placed a hold on the account of every student who had been tied to the scandal and reviewed their cases individually.
The source said that Olivia and Bella had become closer than ever because of the scandal, saying: ‘This has strengthened their bond more than anything possibly could.’