Even in the account set forth in four successive indictments, Loughlin and Giannulli were not Singer's most prolific conspirators. Other parents were charged with paying more money, for more years, to the benefit of more children.
And yet from the morning of March 12, 2019, when agents fanned out in Beverly Hills, Atherton, Calif., Greenwich, Conn., and other exclusive enclaves to arrest some 50 people, Loughlin and Giannulli have drawn outsize fascination -- and ire -- from the public.
Last April, Loughlin's fans and detractors lined the sidewalk outside the federal courthouse in Boston where she made her initial appearance. Supermarket tabloids, citing unnamed sources said to be close to the actress, offered near-weekly updates on her state of mind.
Even as a grand jury returned three additional indictments, charging them with bribery and money laundering, Loughlin and Giannulli resisted taking a deal and maintained their innocence. Gorton had set a trial date for Oct. 5.
But the couple suffered a serious setback earlier this month when Gorton denied their request to dismiss the indictment or, at the least, to throw out the recorded calls Singer made as a cooperator. Their attorneys argued that the federal agents overseeing Singer's cooperation had browbeaten him into misleading his clients on the recorded calls, drawing out evidence of criminal intent where none existed.
Gorton declined to dismiss the indictment or suppress the calls. Questions of criminal intent, he ruled, should be decided by a jury.
In the government's account -- set out in four indictments and an FBI agent's affidavit -- Giannulli and Loughlin began conspiring with Singer in April 2016, when the fashion designer told Singer in an email, "I'd like to maybe sit with you after your session with the girls as I have some concerns and want to fully understand the game plan and make sure we have a roadmap for success as it relates to (our daughter) and getting her into a school other than (Arizona State University)!"
Singer told the couple that their daughter's academic qualifications were "at or just below the low end of USC's admission," the affidavit said.
And so, prosecutors alleged, Loughlin and Giannulli agreed to tap what Singer called his "side door" into USC: bribing Donna Heinel, an administrator in the school's athletics department, to designate their two daughters as promising rowing coxswains. Heinel, who was arrested in March 2019 and fired by USC, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering, bribery and fraud.
The couple paid $500,000 in all, funneled through Singer's charity, whose stated mission was to help "underprivileged students" but whose real purpose, Singer has acknowledged, was to pass money from parents to coaches and test administrators they wanted to bribe.
The tax-exempt status for Singer's "Key Worldwide Foundation" allowed some of his clients to write off bribes as charitable gifts on their taxes, authorities said. Singer has pleaded guilty to four felonies and has yet to be sentenced.
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