WASHINGTON – Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy for their involvement in a scheme that saw wealthy people pay bribes to get their offspring into prestigious universities, prosecutors said on Thursday.
The couple are due in court Friday to enter the guilty pleas, the Office of the US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts said in a statement.
Loughlin, 55, and the 56-year-old Giannulli, a fashion designer, spent $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California (USC) as recruits to the rowing team, even though neither young woman was a rower.
Federal prosecutors in Boston indicted more than 50 people in March 2019 following an FBI investigation dubbed “Varsity Blues,” which uncovered an elaborate scam led by Rick Singer, the owner of a college counseling service called Key Worldwide Foundation.
Singer accepted bribes totaling $25 million between 2011-2018 from parents eager to ensure their children would be admitted to “elite schools,” according to the indictment.
The two highest-profile defendants, Loughlin and Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Huffman, reacted to the charges in radically different ways.
Huffman, best known for the television series “Desperate Housewives,” had her lawyers began negotiations with the US Attorney’s Office and pleaded guilty within months.
She served 11 days behind bars and paid a $30,000 fine.
Loughlin and Giannulli, however, pleaded not guilty and vowed to fight. But when their attorneys’ efforts to get the charges dismissed failed, they appear to have concluded that cutting a deal was the wiser course of action.
Under the plea agreement, Loughlin will spend two months in prison, while Giannulli is to receive a five-month sentence.
They must also pay a total of $400,000 in fines.
A conviction on conspiracy charges carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars.
“These defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process and which are consistent with prior sentences in this case,” US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said.
USC said last October that the couple’s daughters were no longer students at the school.
Other institutions caught up in the scandal included Yale; Georgetown; Stanford; the University of California, Los Angeles; Wake Forest University and the University of Texas.