After a long, drawn out and at times drama-filled process, Full House actress Lori Loughlin’s punishment for her admitted role in the college admissions scandal—otherwise known as “Operation Varsity Blues”—has been handed down.
Federal prosecutors had been at an impasse with Loughlin and her co-defendant fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli for just over a year. The government tacked on additional charges on two occasions in an apparent effort to persuade the defendants to enter more seriously into plea negotiations. Defense lawyers attempted to argue that the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence and that the FBI coerced key witness William “Rick” Singer to lie; they tried to get the case tossed out entirely. The government admitted it made an error, but U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton declined to toss the case.
Loughlin and Giannulli eventually reached a plea agreement with the government that meant months in prison, not years. They each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and to honest services wire and mail fraud. Judge Gorton accepted the plea deal on Friday, meaning two months in prison for Loughlin. The proceeding took place via Zoom.
The terms of the plea deal said Loughlin would serve two months behind bars and pay a $150,000 fine. She agreed to two years of supervised release and to serve 100 hours of community service. Giannulli would get five months, pay $250,000, and get two years of supervised release with 250 hours of community service. This was a big difference from fighting 12 criminal counts at trial and facing the possibility of years in prison.
Loughlin was sentenced to two months a few hours after her husband was sentenced to five months.
The convicted felons’ daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Giannulli were each photographed on rowing machines, and those photos were submitted as part of fraudulent college applications to the University of Southern California. The celebrity parents were accused of “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.”
The prosecution’s sentencing recommendation, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Boston on Monday, said Giannulli was “the more active participant in the scheme” to get their two daughters accepted into the University of Southern California, but maintained that Loughlin was “nonetheless fully complicit.”
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“As between the defendants, the evidence suggests that Giannulli was the more active participant in the scheme. He engaged more frequently with Singer, directed the bribe payments to USC and Singer, and personally confronted his daughter’s high school counselor to prevent the scheme from being discovered, brazenly lying about his daughter’s athletic abilities,” the memo said.
Accordingly, Loughlin got a lighter punishment than her husband did.
Jerry Lambe contributed to this report.
[Image via Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images]
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