A former assistant women’s soccer coach involved in creating a fake rowing profile that helped Full House actress Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli‘s daughters get into USC is pleading guilty for her role in the nationwide cheating scandal. The development has the potential to have “devastating” consequences for Loughlin and Giannulli given that the defendant has agreed to cooperate, legal experts tell Law&Crime.
On behalf of the Department of Justice, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew E. Lelling announced Tuesday that Laura Janke, 36, and another defendant identified as 56-year-old senior insurance executive Toby MacFarlane intend to plead guilty.
Janke will plead guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering and, even more importantly, has agreed to cooperate with the government. MacFarlane is pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The MacFarlane charges are the same ones that Loughlin and Giannulli were hit with when news of the massive prosecution broke. The couple has since been hit with additional money laundering charges, apparently after “neglecting” to lock in a plea deal.
They were accused from the start of creating fake rowing profiles to get their daughters Isabella Giannulli and Olivia Jade Giannulli into USC, “agree[ing] to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the [University of Southern California (USC)] crew team–despite the fact that they did not participate in crew.”
Payments were allegedly made to William “Rick” Singer‘s charity organization, the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), and Singer responded by getting in touch with USC employees like Janke. What Janke admitted to doing in the case of co-defendant MacFarlane is quite similar to what is alleged in the Loughlin/Giannulli case.
According to court documents, MacFarlane paid $450,000 to facilitate the admission of his children to USC as purported athletic recruits. Specifically, on Oct. 3, 2013, Singer emailed MacFarlane’s daughter’s high school transcript and college exam scores to Janke and another defendant. Soon after, Singer caused a purported charitable organization he established, the Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), to wire $50,000 to a private soccer club controlled by Janke and the other defendant. Using materials provided by MacFarlane and Singer, Janke then created a falsified soccer profile for MacFarlane’s daughter, falsely describing her as a “US Club Soccer All American” in high school. MacFarlane’s daughter was presented to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported soccer recruit, and was accepted to USC in March 2014. On May 2, 2014, MacFarlane issued a $200,000 check to the Edge College & Career Network LLC (“The Key”) – Singer’s for-profit college counseling and preparation business – with “Real Estate Consulting & Analysis” written in the memo line. On May 12, 2014, Singer issued a $100,000 payment to the private soccer club which Janke partly controlled.
Similarly, in November 2016, Singer directed Janke to create a falsified basketball profile for MacFarlane’s son. Singer then emailed the profile to a USC administrator to present to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported basketball recruit. In February 2017, USC issued a conditional acceptance to MacFarlane’s son as a student-athlete.
In one case there were fake basketball and soccer profiles, but with Loughlin and Giannulli it was fake rowing profiles. In addition, MacFarlane is admitting to paying $450,000 in bribes, while Loughlin and Giannulli have thus far expressed no interest in admitting they paid out $500,000 in illegal bribes. Another key difference: MacFarlane was not charged with money laundering, while Loughlin and Giannulli have been.
All of this is to say, when you read how similar the fact pattern is between these cases, Janke’s promised cooperation with the government could be “devastating” for Loughlin and Giannulli.
Trial lawyer Page Pate explained why.
The Janke plea “certainly makes their case a lot more difficult,” he told Law&Crime.
“Cooperating defendants who have plea agreements with the government are not the most credible witnesses at trial because the jury knows that they have a strong motivation to please the government to get a lower sentence,” Pate continued. “However, if there is evidence to corroborate what the cooperating witness says, then the combination of that witnesses’ testimony and the supporting evidence can be devastating to a defendant at trial.”
The situation gets even more serious when you consider that Olivia Jade reportedly received a target letter from the government.
Now let’s get to the fact pattern, as presented in the original complaint, regarding the alleged bribes.
In an e-mail on or about July 24, 2016, [Rick Singer] advised GIANNULLI that his older daughter’s academic qualifications were at or just below the “low end” of USC’s admission standards. Thereafter, the GIANNULLIS agreed with CW-1 to use bribes to facilitate her admission to USC as a recruited crew coxswain, even though she did not row competitively or otherwise participate in crew.
On or about September 7, 2016, GIANNULLI sent CW-1 an e-mail attaching a photograph of his older daughter on an ergometer. [Donna] Heinel presented the GIANNULLIS’ daughter to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions as a purported crew recruit on October 27, 2016. At the meeting, the subcommittee approved her conditional admission to the university.
On or about April 10, 2017, GIANNULLI wired $200,000 to KWF. The following day, an employee of [Rick Singer’s] sent the GIANNULLIS a receipt from KWF falsely indicating that “no goods or services were exchanged” for the purported donation. On or about April 10, 2017, GIANNULLI copied LOUGHLIN on an e-mail to CW-1 bearing the subject line, “Trojan happiness.” He wrote: “I wanted to thank you again for your great work with [our older daughter], she is very excited and both Lori and I are very appreciative of your efforts and end result!”
CW-1 replied, “With [your younger daughter] please let me know if there is a similar need anywhere so we do not lose a spot.” GIANNULLI responded, “Yes [our younger daughter] as well,” and LOUGHLIN added, “Yes USC for [our younger daughter]!” CW-1 replied, “So work to acquire [U]SC? As soon as the semester is over I will need a transcript and test scores.”
On or about July 14, 2017, CW-1 e-mailed Janke directing her to prepare a crew profile for the GIANNULLIS’ younger daughter. Janke responded: “Ok sounds good. Please send me the pertinent information and I will get started.” On or about July 16, 2017, CW-1 e-mailed the GIANNULLIS requesting information for the crew profile. CW-1 indicated that the profile would present their younger daughter, falsely, as a crew coxswain for the L.A. Marina Club team, and requested that the GIANNULLIS send an “Action Picture.” Four days later, CW-1 sent the GIANNULLIS a second request, noting, “If we want USC I will need a transcript, test scores and picture on the ERG.”
LOUGHLIN, copying GIANNULLI, replied later that day, “Moss will get this done. We are back in town on Monday.” On or about July 28, 2017, GIANNULLI, copying LOUGHLIN, e-mailed CW-1 a photograph of their younger daughter on an ergometer.
Also in both the MacFarlane and Loughlin/Giannulli cases, admitted scam architect Rick Singer made phone calls with the defendants, warning them about a fake IRS audit of the Key Worldwide Foundation. The government was listening in as these calls happened, the complaint shows.
CW-1 [Rick Singer]: –I’m just trying to connect with folks just to say, “Hey, I– I– you know, this is what really happened, right?” MACFARLANE Yeah. CW-1 Like [your daughter] got in and [your son] got in and they’re really not collegian athletes–
CW-1: –but we– we made it work through, you know, Donna Heinel in soccer and basketball and USC athletics, but I don’t want– I want to make sure that you guys don’t say anything to contradict what I’m going to say, which is that your $400,000 helped– was funded– paid to my foundation.
CW-1: And that we help underserved kids and that’s why you gave the money.
MACFARLANE: Yeah. Okay
CW-1 [Singer]: So I just want to make sure out stories are the same, because–
CW-1: –and th– and that your $400K was paid to our foundation to help underserved kids.
GIANNULLI: Uh, perfect.
CW-1: Okay? So I just want to make sure that we’re on the same page, in case–
CW-1: Who knows if they’ll call or they don’t?
GIANNULLI: Perfect. Got it.
CW-1: If you ever– ever were to say anything.
LOUGHLIN: So we– so we just– so we just have to say we made a donation to your foundation and that’s it, end of story.
CW-1: That is correct.
CW-1: I just wanted to make sure I touched base because I didn’t want you–
CW-1: –to all of a sudden what– like what’s this call coming from.
LOUGHLIN: Okay, yeah. Okay. Totally. All right. So–so that’s it. So it’s — it’s the IRS. It’s not anyone from USC, it’s the IRS.
CW-1: That is correct.
LOUGHLIN: Okay. Very good.
To recap: In each case, Singer said the IRS was auditing his foundation and suspects agreed that to get their stories straight, all they needed to do was say they made donations to help underprivileged kids, which Singer’s foundation purported to do but did the opposite. Two defendants are going the not guilty route and have been hit with more charges, while MacFarlane is pleading guilty to same charges Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty to and was not hit with additional charges.
Law&Crime Network host, criminal defense attorney and former N.J. prosecutor Bob Bianchi contrasted the Huffman and Loughlin situations this way: “In short, for Loughlin the legal doctrine of ‘no bueno’ comes to mind.”
“She doesn’t get it, and her arrogance will be her downfall,” Bianchi told Law&Crime. “And, I’m betting she’s a lawyer’s nightmare as well.”
“The Feds have escalating plea offers and she now has new charges. The legal physics of this means her lawyers are being hamstrung from mitigating her conduct for a plea that is measured and reasonable,” he explained. “Unlike Felicity Huffman who has accepted responsibility and will get a big break for that, in opposition Loughlin is making it worse for herself.”
“And now, defendants are becoming cooperating government witnesses against her. As she waits as the prosecutions case against her gets stronger, she’s ratcheting up her exposure,” Bianchi concluded.
[Image via Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]