BOSTON (Reuters) – “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli were sentenced on Friday to respective prison terms of two months and five months for participating in a vast U.S. college admissions fraud scheme.
Loughlin, 56, choked up as she apologized to U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton in Boston for the “awful decision” she made to help her daughters gain an “unfair advantage” in the college admissions process and get into their preferred school.
She and her husband were sentenced after they pleaded guilty in May to engaging in a fraud scheme aimed at securing spots for their daughters at the University of Southern California as fake athletic recruits.
They did so through what Gorton called a “blatant” scheme that involved wealthy parents, including the couple, conspiring with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and fraud to secure their children’s admissions to top schools.
Loughlin, in her first public remarks about the case since her March 2019 arrest, said she had acted out of love for her daughters.
The actress, who became the public face of the scandal, said she understood her actions “helped exacerbate existing inequalities in society generally and the higher education system for specifically.”
“I am truly, profoundly and deeply sorry, and I need to face the consequences and make amends,” she said during a hearing held via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gorton also ordered Loughlin and Giannulli to pay respective fines of $150,000 and $250,000 and complete 100 and 250 hours of community service. He said he was “dumbfounded” by how Loughlin could aid the corruption of the higher education system.
“We can only hope that you will spend the rest of your charmed life, as you’ve said you will, making amends for the system that you have harmed,” he said.
Loughlin and Giannulli are among 56 people charged in a scheme masterminded by consultant William “Rick” Singer, who has admitted to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and using bribery to secure the admission of children to schools under the guise of being sought-after athletes.
The parents include actress Felicity Huffman, who received a 14-day prison sentence for paying to rig her daughter’s college entrance exam. An insurance and private equity executive, Mark Hauser, on Friday became the latest parent to cut a plea deal.
Prosecutors said Loughlin and Giannulli conspired with Singer to fabricate parts of their daughters’ applications for admission to USC so they could be admitted as fake rowing team recruits.
Prosecutors said Giannulli, the “more active” parent in the scheme, also paid $500,000 in purported “donations” as a quid pro quo to induce a USC employee to facilitate the recruitment of daughters Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose Giannulli.
Defense lawyer B.J. Trach said the case had “devastating” effects on Loughlin’s career, leading to her losing multi-year acting contracts. “She has become intertwined with the college admissions scandal,” he said.
The couple is due to report to prison on Nov. 19.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Rosalba O’Brien and Tom Brown)