Actor Lori Loughlin, other parents plead not guilty in U.S. college admissions case

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  • April 15, 2019
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Actor Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli and other prominent parents pleaded not guilty to charges that they took part in the sweeping college admissions bribery scam in the United States, according to court documents filed Monday.

Loughlin and Giannulli are charged with paying $500,000 US in bribes to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither is a rower.

They were among 50 people charged in the nationwide scandal, which authorities say also involved rigging college entrance exam scores. 

Loughlin and Giannulli waived their right to appear in Boston federal court for their arraignment, their lawyers said in court documents. The judge granted their requests not to appear.

It’s the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. The scandal embroiled elite universities across the U.S. and laid bare the lengths to which status-seeking parents will go to secure their children a coveted spot.

Loughlin, who played aunt Becky on the sitcom Full House, and Giannulli haven’t publicly addressed the allegations against them.

Accused of rigging test scores, bribing coaches

They are accused of paying admissions consultant Rick Singer to rig standardized test scores and bribe college coaches and other insiders to get their children into selective schools.

Authorities say Loughlin and Giannulli helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending Singer photos of their teens posing on rowing machines. After their older daughter was admitted to USC, authorities say Giannulli, whose Mossimo clothing had long been a brand at retail giant Target until recently, sent Singer an email with the subject line “Trojan happiness,” thanking him for his “efforts and end result!”

Their daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli — a social media star who has a popular YouTube channel — was dropped from deals with cosmetics retailer Sephora and hair products company TRESemme after her parents’ arrest.

The couple and more than a dozen other parents were hit last week with money laundering conspiracy charges on top of the mail fraud conspiracy charges they were already facing. 

Each of the charges Loughlin and Giannulli face calls for up to 20 years in prison, although first-time offenders would get only a small fraction of that if convicted.

Several other indicted parents have also entered not-guilty pleas, while fellow actor Felicity Huffman, who starred in ABC’s Desperate Housewives, and 12 other parents have agreed to plead guilty. Huffman is scheduled to appear in a Boston court on May 21 to enter her plea.

Prosecutors have said they will seek a prison sentence on the low end of four to 10 months for Huffman, who was charged with paying $15,000 US to boost her daughter’s SAT score.

Singer pleaded guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy on March 12, the same day the allegations against the parents and coaches were made public in the so-called Operations Varsity Blues investigation.

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