A day after Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, were charged in a second superseding indictment on conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering, a source tells ET that, up until this point, Loughlin didn't believe she would face the possibility of serving time in prison. Despite fearing the prospect of jail, the source claims Loughlin didn't truly believe it could happen to her.
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters -- Olivia, 19, and Bella, 20 -- admitted to the University of Southern California as recruits for the crew team, even though neither of them participated in the sport.
"Lori still believed in the end she would just get a slap on the wrist," the source says. "At this point she is getting complete clarity and she’s scared and in terrible shape."
"The reality of this situation has finally hit her like a ton of bricks," the source adds. "It wasn’t until she was faced with [the] additional [charge] that she saw the true ramifications."
The charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering.
Ultimately, if convicted and then sentenced to the maximum extent of the law, Loughlin could face up to 40 years in jail. Although, most experts agree that the chance of sentencing that severe is almost nonexistent.
"She is going through the worst time of her life," ET's source says of Loughlin. "It feels like her whole world is falling apart. She is putting all her trust in her team and her lawyers, and hoping for the best."
As for her daughters, the source says that Olivia, a YouTube star, is still "attempting to process" the situation, while Bella "has stood by her parents."
"Olivia blames her mother and claims she always will," the source says. "Olivia isn’t ready to forgive and has continued to distance herself. She is attempting to process all of this. And trying to work on ways to rebuild her business on her own without her parents' help."
"Isabella, while she is mortified and very hurt by all this, has stood by her parents," the source continues. "She knows her mom needs her right now."
The source also adds that Loughlin's close friends "are incredibly concerned and feel the entire situation should have been handled differently."
"They believe she should have taken the plea when offered," the source says of Loughlin, who, along with Giannulli, initially rejected any plea agreements, according to the source.
"Her closest friends have warned her she needs to be more humble and worry she’s been misled through this process," the source adds. "There seems to be a certain belief among her people she is above all of this and everything will be just fine. And it’s becoming more and more evident that is not the case."
Additionally, the source says that Loughlin's friends "feel she should have taken the same route" as Felicity Huffman, who was also charged in the scandal, and "apologized profusely."
"They begged her to take the plea, but she truly didn’t feel it was necessary," the source says. "This isn’t the value system of most of her friends and some of those closest to her, who have stood by her from the beginning, are now starting to distance themselves."
Earlier this week, Huffman, who paid $15,000 to help get her and husband William H. Macy's eldest daughter, 18-year-old Sofia, into an elite college by cheating on the SAT, pleaded guilty to the charges of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
"I am pleading guilty to the charge brought against me by the United States Attorney's Office," Huffman said in a statement. "I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions."
"I am ashamed of the pain I have caused my daughter, my family, my friends, my colleagues and the educational community," the statement continued. "I want to apologize to them and, especially, I want to apologize to the students who work hard every day to get into college, and to their parents who make tremendous sacrifices to support their children and do so honestly. My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty."
In Huffman's case, along with the 13 individuals who are also pleading guilty, the US Attorney is recommending incarceration at the low end of the sentencing guidelines, a fine or other financial penalty of $20,000 and 12 months supervised release. Additionally, the US Attorney is recommending a mandatory special assessment of $100 and restitution in an amount to be determined by the court at sentencing and forfeiture. Huffman's plea hearing has been set for May 21.
"Things have been very difficult for Felicity," a source previously told ET. "This has been one of the most trying times in her life."
Earlier this week, Rachel Stockman of the Law & Crime Network told ET that, if Loughlin and/or Huffman end up serving jail time, it would likely be at a minimum security facility.
"Based on these charges and the fact that they have not been in legal trouble before, and the fact that, probably, they are not a security risk, they'll probably be at a minimum security prison," Stockman speculated. "Very similar to the one Martha Stewart spent time at."
Watch the video below for more on the college admissions scandal.