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College counselor clashed with Lori Loughlin's husband over daughter's qualifications, records show

Matthew Ormseth, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Two years ago, a college counselor at Marymount High School, an elite all-girls school on Los Angeles' Westside, got a call in his office: J. Mossimo Giannulli, the fashion designer and husband of actress Lori Loughlin, was at the front desk and wanted to see him.

The counselor, Philip Petrone, had told the University of Southern California he doubted the Giannullis' daughter rowed competitively, as her college application stated, given her busy schedule as a video blogger. Moreover, he shared his concern that her family was working with William "Rick" Singer, an independent counselor Petrone suspected was misleading colleges.

On his way downstairs, he thought the visit from Giannulli had something to do with this. He thought right.

Petrone described what happened next in a detailed memo, which was filed in court this week by federal prosecutors who have charged Giannulli, Loughlin and a dozen others in a fraud, bribery and money laundering conspiracy.

Attorneys for the Giannullis and their co-defendants accused those prosecutors of committing "extraordinary misconduct," alleging they browbeat Singer, who cooperated in hopes of receiving a more lenient sentence, into manufacturing evidence he knew not to be true. They asked a judge to dismiss the indictment or, at a minimum, to throw out the thousands of recorded calls Singer made while cooperating.

Stephen Frank, a supervisor for the prosecutors accused of misconduct, responded Wednesday. Unable to refute the evidence of their own bad acts, Frank wrote in court papers, the charged parents have fabricated imaginary ones committed by the government. Their theory -- that Singer, at the government's urging, twisted his clients' intentions into something criminal -- ignores the reams of evidence gathered prior to his cooperation, he said.

 

In support of this argument, Frank filed in court 386 pages of phone transcripts, text messages, emails, financial records and other documents obtained through wiretaps, search warrants and grand jury subpoenas. The records bring into sharper focus a number of incidents that have previously been mentioned or alluded to in the case, including the heated exchange in April 2018 between Giannulli and Petrone. Giannulli's attorneys didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Leading Giannulli to his office, Petrone tried making small talk. He asked Giannulli if he'd walked or drove to the Bel Air campus. "What does it matter?" Giannulli said, according to the counselor's memo. When Petrone said he was only making conversation, he recalled Giannulli replying, "Let's not."

In his office, Giannulli demanded to know what Petrone had told USC about his daughters, the counselor wrote, "and why I was trying to ruin or get in the way of their opportunities." As the counselor explained he had no knowledge of her rowing career, Giannulli "interrupted and bluntly stated" the girl was a coxswain, Petrone wrote. A key member of a crew team, the coxswain sits in the boat's stern, steering and leading the rowers.

Prosecutors allege Giannulli and Loughlin conspired with Singer to concoct a story about their daughter rowing for a fictitious "L.A. Marina Club Team," and had her pose for a picture on a rowing machine to round out a bogus recruiting profile submitted to USC. They filed the picture, the girl's face obscured, in court on Wednesday.

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