BOSTON (AP) — “Full House” actor Lori Loughlin must serve two months in prison and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, must serve five months for paying half a million dollars in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as rowing recruits, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton accepted Loughlin’s plea deal with prosecutors in a hearing held via videconference because of the coronavirus pandemic after sentencing her husband in an earlier hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin O’Connell said Loughlin wasn’t content with the advantages her children already had thanks to their wealth and “was focused on getting what she wanted, no matter how and no matter the cost.” He said prison time was was necessary to send a message that “everyone no matter your status is accountable in our justice system.”
Loughlin appeared calm, showing little emotion as her attorney BJ Trach said she is “profoundly sorry” for her actions. Trach said Loughlin has sought to repair her relationship with her daughters and has begun volunteering at a elementary school in LA with children with special needs.
In the first display of remorse either of them have made publicly over the fraud, Giannulli told the judge earlier Friday that he “deeply” regrets the harm that his actions have caused his daughters, wife and others.
“I take full responsibility for my conduct. I am ready to accept the consequences and move forward, with the lessons I’ve learned from this experience,” Giannulli said in a stoic statement.
In accepting Giannulli’s plea deal, Gorton said the prison terms are “sufficient but not greater than necessary punishment under the circumstances.” Gorton scolded Giannulli for what he described as “breathtaking fraud” made possible by his wealth and privilege.
“You were not stealing bread to feed your family. You have no excuse for your crime and that makes it all the more blameworthy,” the judge told Giannulli before officially sentencing him. Giannulli was ordered to surrender Nov. 19.
Under the plea deal, Giannulli will also pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. Loughlin will pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service. Unlike most plea agreements, in which the judge remains free to decide the defendant’s sentence, Loughlin’s and Giannulli’s proposed prison terms were binding once accepted.
The famous couple’s sentencing comes three months after they reversed course and admitted to participating in the college admissions cheating scheme that has laid bare the lengths to which some wealthy parents will go to get their kids into elite universities.
They are among nearly 30 prominent parents to plead guilty in the case, which federal prosecutors dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” It uncovered hefty bribes to get undeserving kids into college with rigged test scores or fake athletic credentials.
Loughlin and Giannulli had insisted for more than a year that they believed their payments were “legitimate donations” and accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.