Actress Lori Loughlin, husband enter guilty pleas in college admissions scandal

Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband pleaded guilty Friday to charges of fraud in the college admissions scandal, admitting they scammed their daughters' way into USC with lies and illegal payments.

How long Loughlin and her husband J. Mossimo Giannulli will spend in prison for their crimes remains undecided. The judge in the case must still decide whether to accept the couple's guilty pleas and the terms of deals they struck with prosecutors. Under those deals, Loughlin would spend two months in prison and Giannulli would be sentenced to five months behind bars.

Nonetheless, the guilty pleas marked a sharp about-face for the couple. Since their arrests more than a year ago, Loughlin and Giannulli maintained their innocence, repeatedly pleading not guilty as prosecutors ratcheted up pressure on them with enhanced charges including conspiracy to commit fraud, bribery and money laundering.

Before saying a somber "guilty" under oath Friday, the television star and fashion designer acknowledged what they had long denied: That they schemed with William "Rick" Singer, a Newport Beach consultant at the heart of the scandal, to pass off their two daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli, as rowing recruits -- a scam that cleared the way for the girls' admission to the elite university.

Seated next to their attorneys, Loughlin and Giannulli listened with stony expressions as Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen read an exhaustive account of their dealings with Singer, including how they had paid him a total of $500,000, taken staged photographs of the girls on rowing equipment to bolster the charade, and lied to administrators at USC and the girls' tony private high school who had grown suspicious.

Afterward, under questioning from U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, acknowledged the allegations laid out by the prosecutor were accurate.

From his chambers in a Boston courthouse, Gorton said he would wait to decide whether to accept the guilty pleas until he received detailed reports on the case and the couple from probation officials. If he ultimately decides the prison sentences and fines called for in the agreements Loughlin and Giannulli struck with prosecutors are too lenient, Gorton said he would allow the pair the chance to withdraw their guilty pleas if they wanted or stick with them and accept the judge's more severe punishments.

Gorton is scheduled to sentence the couple on Aug. 21. It was not clear whether he would decide on signing off on the plea deals before then.


There are reasons to think he could have concerns with the proposed punishments. Gorton has already sentenced four other parents in the wide-ranging scandal and the shortest sentence has been five months for a mother who paid Singer far less money than Loughlin and Giannulli.

Gorton ordered Douglas Hodge, a former investment manager executive, to serve nine months in prison, the stiffest sentence handed down in the admissions case so far.

The decisions to plead guilty came after the couple lost an ambitious legal counterattack launched earlier this year. Pointing to notes taken by Singer, who is cooperating with prosecutors in the case, in which he appeared to claim federal agents pressured him to lie and elicit incriminating, yet false evidence against his clients, they tried to get the judge to throw out the case or suppress incriminating phone calls with Singer. Gorton did neither.

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