CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer, have agreed to plead guilty to charges that they conspired to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew recruits, prosecutors announced Thursday, May 21, a reversal for the couple after months of maintaining their innocence in the nation’s largest-ever admissions prosecution.
Under the terms of the agreement, which still needs approval by a judge, Loughlin, 55, agreed to serve two months in prison, pay a $150,000 fine and serve two years of supervised release with 100 hours of community service. If the deal is approved, Giannulli, 56, is expected to serve five months in prison, pay a $250,000 fine and serve two years of supervised release with 250 hours of community service.
Loughlin will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, prosecutors said, and Giannulli will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud. Prosecutors had accused Loughlin and Giannulli of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters designated as recruits to USC’s crew team as a way to ensure their admission to the school.
A lawyer for Loughlin and Giannulli declined to comment.
Loughlin, who was among more than 50 people charged in a scheme involving bribing coaches and cheating on college entrance exams, pleaded not guilty in the case more than a year ago. In doing so, she took a different path from another Hollywood actress, Felicity Huffman, who was accused of paying a college consultant to inflate her daughter’s SAT score.
Huffman agreed to plead guilty within a month of her arrest and publicly expressed remorse. A judge sentenced her to 14 days in prison, and she ultimately served 11 days in a minimum-security federal prison camp in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For months, Hollywood gossip magazines were full of reports that Loughlin was increasingly worried about the case and that she regretted pleading not guilty and wanted to resolve the charges.
Late last year, prosecutors turned up the pressure on Loughlin and other parents to plead guilty, both behind the scenes and in public.
In an interview in October on WCVB, an ABC affiliate in Boston, the U.S. attorney for the district of Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, warned that his office would ask for a longer sentence if Loughlin went to trial and were convicted than if she pleaded guilty.
Two weeks later, Lelling brought new bribery charges against Loughlin and 10 other parents who had pleaded not guilty in the case.
But in recent months, the prosecution case had seen setbacks after revelations that a college consultant at the heart of the case had taken notes during the investigation suggesting that prosecutors were inappropriately pressuring him to implicate parents.
Loughlin, who is best known for playing Aunt Becky on the 1990s sitcom “Full House,” has also lost acting work. The Hallmark Channel, where she had roles on a show and a television movie series, said immediately after her arrest last spring that it would no longer work with her.
Loughlin and Giannulli were charged in March with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Prosecutors later added counts of money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery.
Prosecutors said that Loughlin and Giannulli had agreed with a college consultant, William Singer, to pay $500,000 to facilitate their daughters’ admission to USC as recruits to the crew team, despite the fact that they did not participate in crew. Singer, whom prosecutors have described as the mastermind of the admissions scheme, has pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges and is cooperating with the government. According to prosecutors, Loughlin and Giannulli paid $100,000 in donations directly to USC’s athletic program and another $400,000 to a foundation that Singer had set up.
If Loughlin had gone to trial, her and Giannulli’s lawyers had suggested that they would try to raise doubts about how much the couple knew about what Singer intended to do with the money.
Loughlin’s daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Giannulli, were both enrolled at USC when the charges were announced, Olivia Jade as a freshman and Isabella as a sophomore. USC said in October that the two women were no longer enrolled, though it was not clear if they had been dismissed or were allowed to withdraw. USC had said earlier this year that it was investigating 33 students for admissions violations in connection to the scandal.