Federal prosecutors are reportedly eyeing possible charges against more parents in the nationwide college cheating scandal that has ensnared celebrities like Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli.
As Law&Crime reported at length before, the famous weren’t the only ones to get caught up in the massive prosecution, but the New York Times reported Wednesday afternoon that a “new set of parents” may have reason to be afraid of what’s next.
While it was not reported as a guarantee that other celebrities might soon be exposed to legal peril, the Times painted a picture of “elite circles” in SoCal shaking in their proverbial boots. Per the Times:
Federal prosecutors are pursuing a new set of parents in the college admissions fraud scandal, sending ripples of fear through elite circles in Southern California and stirring speculation about which well-heeled executive or celebrity might be the next to be charged.
The prosecutors have informed some of the parents — the exact number is unclear — that they are under investigation in the nation’s largest-ever college admissions probe, according to four defense lawyers. During a trip to Los Angeles in April, the lead prosecutor conferred with lawyers for at least two of these parents.
Well, then — what can we glean from this? We already know that the individuals are bound to be affluent, as all the other parents charged in the probe have been, but it’s also a distinct possibility that some of them might be known to the general public.
The aforementioned defense lawyers said a “larger array of parents” are “worried” that they’re next, and are “scrambling” for legal representation and a strategy.
It was also reported that target letters have been sent to three students. It had previously been reported that one of those students was Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade Giannulli. Olivia Jade, along with her sister Isabella, allegedly posed on rowing machines for pictures that were used in fake profiles designed to make it appear as if they were crew recruits — even though they never participated in crew.
Loughlin and her husband allegedly “agreed 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–thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
Laura Janke, a former assistant soccer coach at USC, recently decided to plead guilty to the charges against her; she was involved in the creation of the above-described fake profiles.
One unnamed defense lawyer quoted by the Times said that “For many of these people, this is the only thing they can think about.” They’ve seen the public shaming and fear the vitriol and/or mockery that will inevitably head their way.
Importantly, these parents might have been recorded by the government while William “Rick” Singer, the admitted mastermind of the elaborate fraud, engaged in phone calls with them.
In many of the cases, Singer said that the IRS was auditing his “Key Worldwide Foundation” and that they needed to get their stories straight. Also in many of the cases, the parties agreed that they would say the money involved was meant to help underprivileged kids.
While Huffman decided to plead guilty early to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, as part of a bribery scheme to ensure her child would get into the school of her choice, Loughlin and Giannulli have not walked the same path. Prosecutors, along the way, slapped them with additional charges of money laundering, making a bad situation even worse.
All indications are that the couple would rather fight the charges in court and tell their side of the story, rather than guaranteeing themselves time behind bars.
[Image via Lisa O’Connor, Tommaso Boddi]AFP/Getty Images]