Lori Loughlin Gets Two Months in Prison for College Scam

“Full House” actor Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison for conspiring with her husband to pay $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as phony athletic recruits.

The actor’s husband, clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, was sentenced to five months in prison at a separate hearing earlier on Friday in federal court in Boston. The sentences were in line with a plea deal the couple reached with prosecutors in May.

U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton ordered Loughlin to report to prison by Nov. 19.

Loughlin, whose lawyer said she became the “undisputed face of the national scandal,” expressed remorse for her actions. Her voice broke at times and she struggled to hold back tears as she addressed the judge.

“I made an awful decision,” she said. “I allowed myself to be swayed from my moral compass. That realization weighs heavily on me. I have great faith in God and I believe in redemption. Your honor, I am truly and deeply and profoundly sorry. I am ready to face the consequences and make amends.”

‘Fairy Tale Life’

Gorton criticized Loughlin for resorting to crime despite her wealth and success. “Here you are, an admired successful professional actor with a long-lasting marriage, two apparently healthy resilient children, more money than you could possibly need, a beautiful home in sunny Southern California -- a fairy tale life,” the judge said. “Yet you stand before me a convicted felon.”

Loughlin was motivated “to have whatever prestige and instant gratification that comes from being able to show off the admission of your daughters to a preferred university,” he said sternly. “To that end, you participated in the corruption of the system of higher education in this country.”

Her lawyer William Trach said Loughlin had already paid dearly for her role in the scandal. She was fired from multi-year film and television deals with Warner Bros. and the Hallmark Channel, leaving the acting career she spent 40 years building in ruins, he said. She and her family have also been stalked by paparazzi and have had to hire security for their daughters.

“No other defendant has landed in the crosshairs of this scandal close to anything approaching what Laurie experienced,” Trach said.

The Los Angeles-based couple are among more than 50 people charged in the scheme, which the U.S. says was masterminded by college counselor William “Rick” Singer. Of the 38 parents charged, 28 have pleaded guilty, receiving sentences ranging from the two weeks imposed on “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman to the nine-month term and $750,000 fine handed down to former Pimco chief Doug Hodge.

The first trial of two sets of parents who are still fighting the charges is scheduled to start early next year.

Rowing Recruits

Loughlin and Giannulli admitted making illicit payments disguised as “donations” to USC athletic funds and to a nonprofit operated by Singer. In exchange, their daughters were designated recruits for the rowing team and given preferential admission.

Prosecutors said Loughlin “steamrolled” an honest high school guidance counselor at the Los Angeles school the daughters attended. Both she and Giannulli encouraged their daughters to pose for staged pictures on rowing equipment as part of the scheme, according to prosecutors.

As with Loughlin, Gorton slammed Giannulli for resorting to crime despite coming from a privileged background. The judge said imprisonment was merited to “dissuade and deter anyone else in your position who thinks that because they have enough money to do anything they want and flout the law and buy their kids’ way into college. That’s not the way it works in this country.”

The couple spent months fighting the charges after they were filed in March 2019, claiming they believed they were making legitimate donations. They agreed to plead guilty after Gorton rejected their bid to dismiss the case in May. Under a brokered plea deal, the U.S. agreed to drop more serious charges, including a money-laundering count, and recommend a two-month sentence for Loughlin and five months for Giannulli.

Giannulli agreed to a stiffer sentence because he was more involved in the scheme, prosecutors said, but Loughlin was also an eager participant. The actor warned her younger daughter in an email not to talk to her guidance counselor about how she was getting into USC as a crew recruit because “it might be a flag for that weasel.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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