We now have a better idea of the deal that could have been for Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli.
The Department of Justice announced Friday that a 56-year-old senior insurance executive from California, Toby MacFarlane, officially pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, the same charges Loughlin and Giannulli were charged with when we first learned of “Operation Varsity Blues.”
Unlike MacFarlane, however, the couple decided to roll the dice and fight the charges in court, rejecting a plea deal the government put on the table. Loughlin was reportedly “adamant” that she wouldn’t “do any jail time.” Prosecutors ended up tacking on money laundering charges for Loughlin and Giannulli, turning up the heat even more.
Here’s where MacFarlane’s guilty plea comes in: the government is recommending 15 months in prison, a year of supervised release, plus a fine of $95,000, restitution and forfeiture. The MacFarlane plea is relevant to Loughlin and Giannulli because of the level of the offense — that is, how much money was allegedly involved. Plus, the details of the allegations were quite similar.
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused 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 Laura Janke, a former assistant women’s soccer coach. Janke agreed to plead guilty and to cooperate with the government, which was significant because she was named in both the MacFarlane case and 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 admitted to paying $450,000 in bribes, while Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 in illegal bribes.
This is what the charging documents initially released by the government had to say about Janke’s involvement in the creation of a fake rowing profile for Loughlin’s daughter, Isabella (CW-1 refers to Singer):
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.
As the government noted in the MacFarlane case, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail could (very theoretically) have resulted in a maximum of 20 years in prison. The same was initially true for Loughlin and Giannulli. As MacFarlane’s deal shows, serious potential peril was reduced to 15 months through acceptance of responsibility.
After turning down a deal and being hit with additional charges, the maximum went from 20 years to 40 years for Loughlin and Giannulli. It appears that Loughlin and Giannulli would rather take the chance that a jury would “understand how things happened” and find them not guilty–racking up legal fees in the process–instead of angling for a deal of roughly 15 months. The exact number could still be more or less than that, though. It has been reported that prosecutors were seeking at least two years in prison for Loughlin. And, as we’ve already seen in the case of former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer, there is an example of a court deciding to spare a defendant prison time.
Editor’s note: this story was updated after publication to note that it is no guarantee that a judge will accept prosecutors’ sentencing recommendations.
[Image via Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images]