Not guilty, say Loughlin, Giannulli in college bribery scam
Thirty-three wealthy parents have been charged in what authorities call the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. Two parents pleaded not guilty Monday to charges they paid half a million dollars to land their daughters in a California school.
"Full House" actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded not guilty Monday to charges that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California.
The couple is among 50 prominent parents, athletic coaches, and others charged in a sweeping college admissions bribery scam that has embroiled elite school across the country, such as Stanford, Georgetown, and Yale.
Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli filed court documents Monday waiving their right to appear for an arraignment and entering not guilty pleas to the two charges against them. The judge granted their requests, meaning they will not have to show up at Boston's federal court to be arraigned.
Thirty-three wealthy parents were charged last month in what authorities have called the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. They are accused of paying admissions consultant Rick Singer to rig standardized test scores and bribe college coaches and other insiders to get their children into selective schools.
Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli are charged with paying bribes to have their daughters designated as crew recruits to USC, even though neither of them is a rower. Authorities say Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli helped create fake athletic profiles for the teens by sending Mr. Singer photos of their teens posing on rowing machines.
After their older daughter was admitted to USC, authorities say Mr. Giannulli, whose Mossimo clothing had long been a Target brand until recently, sent Mr. Singer an email with the subject line, "Trojan happiness," thanking him for his "efforts and end result!"
Ms. Loughlin, who played Aunt Becky on the sitcom "Full House," and Mr. Giannulli haven't publicly addressed the allegations against them.
Their daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli – a social media star who has a popular YouTube channel – was dropped from deals with cosmetics retailer Sephora and hair products company TRESemmé after her parents' arrest.
Prosecutors last week added a money laundering conspiracy charge against Ms. Loughlin, Mr. Giannulli, and more than a dozen other parents who are still fighting the case, increasing the pressure on them to plead guilty. Several other parents who were indicted alongside Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli have also filed court documents entering not guilty pleas.
Each of the charges Ms. Loughlin and Mr. Giannulli faces call for up to 20 years in prison, although first-time offenders would get only a small fraction of that if convicted.
Fellow actress Felicity Huffman, who starred in ABC's "Desperate Housewives," and 12 other parents announced last week that they have agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Ms. Huffman is scheduled to appear in Boston on May 21 to enter her plea.
Prosecutors have said they will seek a prison sentence on the low end of four to 10 months for Ms. Huffman, who was charged with paying $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT score.
On Friday, a former Florida prep school administrator pleaded guilty to taking entrance exams for students, or correcting their answers, as part of the scam. Prosecutors have said they will seek between 33 to 41 months in prison for Mark Riddell, a Harvard graduate who oversaw college entrance exam preparation at IMG Academy.
This story was reported by The Associated Press.