“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin has agreed to serve two months behind bars and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, has agreed to serve five months as part of a deal to plead guilty to cheating the college admissions process, according to court papers filed Thursday.
Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, are scheduled to plead guilty today via video conference before a federal judge in Boston, who must approve the deal.
It's a stunning reversal for the famous couple who insisted for the last year they were innocent and that investigators had fabricated evidence against them. Their decision comes about two weeks after the judge rejected their bid to dismiss the case over allegations of misconduct by federal authorities.
“I think they made a calculated assessment that the risks were just too great” to bring the case to trial, said former federal prosecutor Bradley Simon.
They were scheduled to go to trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport.
They helped create fake athletic profiles for their daughters by sending the admitted ringleader of the scheme, admissions consultant Rick Singer, photos of the teens posing on rowing machines, authorities said.
Lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli had argued that the couple believed the payments were “legitimate donations” that would go directly to USC as a fundraising gift or support Singer's charity.
They also accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple's innocence because it would undermine their case.
Under Loughlin's plea deal, she will also pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. Giannulli has agreed to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service.
Simon said the couple's lawyers may think that Loughlin and Giannulli have a chance of avoiding prison altogether and serving their punishments at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic has already delayed the prison sentences of some parents who have pleaded guilty in the college admissions case and allowed others to go home early.
“It may have been a very clever move by the lawyers,” said Simon, now with the firm Windels Marx in New York.
Loughlin and Giannulli were among 50 people arrested last year in the case dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” that rocked the word of higher education. They are the 23rd and 24th parents to plead guilty in the case.
The case uncovered a scheme in which wealthy parents paid huge sums to secure students' admission at elite schools as fake athletic recruits or have someone cheat on their entrance exams, authorities said.