Image Credit: Katherine Taylor / EPA via Shutterstock
Friday, actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded not guilty to new charges in the ongoing college admissions fraud case.
The 2018 college admissions scandal, referred to as “Varsity Blues,” involved dozens of wealthy parents, including bankers, CEOs, and movie stars such as Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, effectively buying their children admission to some of the top colleges in the country. This fraudulent scheme involved falsified SAT and ACT scores and bribery of coaches who provided fake athletic credentials for the students.
The FBI arrested roughly three dozen parents for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. After actress Felicity Huffman and about a dozen other parents pleaded guilty to that count, prosecutors filed additional charges of money laundering against the remaining parents, including Loughlin and Giannulli.
Prosecutors accuse Loughlin and Giannulli of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters designated as recruits to the University of Southern California’s women’s crew team to ensure admission to the school. The couple has continually pleaded not guilty to all charges filed against them, including the new federal programs bribery charges.
Lawyers involved in the cases claim that prosecutors brought these new charges, in part, due to frustration with the sentences doled out in the cases thus far. These sentences have ranged from probation to five months in prison, and all sentences have been significantly less than what the prosecution asked for.
A judge sentenced actress Felicity Huffman to fourteen days in a federal minimum-security prison for her role in the college admissions scandal. The judge also sentenced her to a $30,000 fine, supervised release for one year, and 250 hours of community service. Huffman was recently released early, after serving just eleven days, due to a Bureau of Prisons policy that allows for a Friday release in certain cases if the scheduled release date falls on a weekend.
The United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, Andrew E. Lelling, will seek a “substantially higher” prison sentence for Loughlin if she is convicted than the one Huffman received. Lelling stated that the “goal from the beginning has been to hold the defendants fully accountable for corrupting the college admissions process through cheating, bribery, and fraud.” The new charge of federal programs bribery can carry a sentence of up to five years in prison. Combined with the potential sentences attached to the previous charges filed against them, Loughlin and Giannulli each face up to fifty years in prison.
Stay tuned for updates on the ongoing litigation surrounding the Varsity Blues scandal.
Liz Costello, University at Buffalo School of Law, Class of 2020. Liz is the Treasurer of the Buffalo Sports and Entertainment Law Society, an Articles Editor of the Buffalo Law Review, and an anticipated associate at Rupp Baase Pfalzgraf Cunningham LLC. Having grown up in Los Angeles with an entertainment attorney mother, Liz is especially interested in the legal issues surrounding music, film, television, and sports. Her favorite activities include going to local live music and sporting events.