Lori Loughlin and her fashion-designer husband rejected a “legitimate approach” to help one of their daughters get into USC, choosing instead to use their wealth to allegedly pursue an illegal path that got them indicted in the massive “Operation Varsity Blues” scandal, prosecutors said.
New court documents in the case that has rocked the college world and left the Hollywood couple fighting federal charges show that Loughlin’s husband, Mossimo Giannulli, allegedly joked with his wife about rebuffing a USC official who agreed to review the college entrance application of one of their daughters.
“The nicest I’ve been about blowing off somebody,” the 56-year-old Giannulli allegedly wrote in an email to his wife, according to the documents prosecutors filed in Boston federal court.
Federal prosecutors made public a previously undisclosed conversation Giannulli had with the USC official in September 2016. In that conversation, the official offered to look at their daughter’s application to USC only to be allegedly told by Giannulli, “I think we are squared away.”
Loughlin, 55, best known for her role as Aunt Becky in the ABC sitcom “Full House,” and Giannulli were among more than 50 people, including 35 wealthy parents, indicted in March in the largest college cheating scam ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Both Loughlin and Giannulli have pleaded not guilty and have vowed to fight the charges. If convicted, they could each face a prison sentence of up to 20 years, according to prosecutors.
The couple is fighting charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors allege they disguised bribes to William “Rick” Singer, the one-time college entrance guru who masterminded the scam, as donations to fund programs for “disadvantaged youth.”
According to the indictment, Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 in bribes to Singer in exchange for having their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose Giannulli, designated as recruits for USC’s crew team even though neither had ever participated in the sport.
Singer has pleaded guilty to his role in the scam and cooperated with the government’s investigation. He’s yet to be sentenced.
In the latest batch of documents filed in court, prosecutors disclosed additional evidence they allege show the depth of Loughlin and Giannulli’s participation in scheme. In a series of emails between Singer and Giannulli, Singer informed the couple how he would make their daughter look like a real “coxswain,” the person athlete responsible for steering boats in rowing competitions.
“In August 2016, Singer told the Giannullis the he would ‘create a coxswain profile’ for their daughter, and noted that ‘[i]t would probably help to get a picture with her on an ERG [an indoor rowing machine] in workout clothes like a real athlete too‘,” the court documents state.
“In fact, the Giannullis’ daughter did not row crew, and was not a coxswain,” the documents say, not identifying either daughter. “Yet, Giannulli, copying Loughlin, replied, ‘Fantastic. Will get all.'”
Giannulli allegedly emailed Singer back a photo of his daughter posing on an ergometer rowing machine, according to the documents.
Loughlin and Giannulli, however, have asserted that evidence in the case eventually will show they were not paying bribes to Singer and were under the impression they were making proper donations to USC.
Defense attorneys have asked a federal judge to order prosecutors to turn over FBI interview transcripts that, they argue, would show the couple acted in good faith when they paid $250,000 to Singer to legitimately help their daughter get into USC.
The couple argued in court documents that “universities — as part of their legitimate admissions process — regularly solicit donations from the families of prospective students, and … such donations can have a material effect on admissions decisions.”
Prosecutors countered in court documents that “the exculpatory evidence the defendants purport to seek simply does not exist” and accused Loughlin and Giannulli of “relying on a sanitized renditions of the facts.”
Among other parents indicted in the nationwide scam was Oscar-nominated actress and “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Huffman served 11 days of a 14-day prison sentence in October.
Huffman admitted to paying Singer $15,000 to get one of his co-conspirators to correct and improve her daughter’s SAT score.
The 57-year-old actress also agreed to pay a $30,000 fine, complete 250 hours of community service and serve one year of probation.