Actress Lori Loughlin said on April 15 she will plead not guilty to charges that she participated in what prosecutors say was the largest college admissions scandal uncovered in U.S. history.
Loughlin, who starred in the television sitcom “Full House” and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli filed papers in federal court in Boston seeking to waive their personal appearances at an arraignment hearing and have not guilty pleas entered on their behalf.
They are among 50 people accused of participating in a massive scheme that allowed wealthy parents to cheat and use bribes to help secure spots for their children at well-known universities like Yale, Georgetown, and USC.
California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer pleaded guilty in March to charges that helped parents facilitate cheating on college entrance exams and bribed coaches at universities to falsely present their children as athletic recruits.
Prosecutors allege that Loughlin, 54, and Giannulli, 55, worked with Singer to pay $500,000 to have their two daughters named as recruits to USC’s crew team, even though they did not row competitively, to help them gain admission.
Loughlin and Giannulli provided Singer photographs of their daughters posing on rowing machines in order to create fake athletic profiles for them, which a USC athletics official in exchange for bribes then used to support recruiting them, prosecutors said.
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 TRESemme after her parents’ arrest.
The couple and several other parents were originally charged in March with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. Prosecutors secured an indictment on April 9 that included an additional charge of conspiring to commit money laundering.
Each charge against Loughlin and Giannulli carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, though they’re likely to face a much lower sentence as first offenders.
Several other parents charged alongside Loughlin and Giannulli also filed papers seeking to waive appearing at an arraignment and have not guilty pleas entered for them. A federal magistrate judge granted their requests on April 15.
In all, 33 parents have been charged in the college admissions scandal. Of those, 13 have agreed to plead guilty, including “Desperate Housewives” TV star Felicity Huffman. She is scheduled to plead guilty on May 21.
Prosecutors have said they will seek a prison sentence on the low end of four to 10 months for Huffman, who was charged with paying $15,000 to boost her daughter’s SAT score.
On April 12, 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.
By Nate Raymond
The Associated Press and Epoch Times staff write Petr Svab contributed to this report.