UPDATED, 12:08 PM: Just hours after her husband received his sentence in the college bribery scheme, Lori Loughlin today was ordered to report to a federal prison in November for a two-month stint.
“Your honor, I am truly and profoundly deeply sorry,” an emotional Loughlin told told U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton just before her sentencing. “I ignored my intuition and allowed myself to swayed from my moral compass,” the Full House actress added, fighting back tears.
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Like spouse Mossimo Giannulli, Loughlin was told to surrender on November 19 to the Bureau of Prisons. The matching date is somewhat unexpected as the couple had hoped to have more spaced out sentences so one parent could be with their young adult daughters, a source with knowledge of the situation told Deadline.
Unlikely to serve full sentence, LA-based Loughlin will almost certainly end up at the medium security prison near Victorville, California. The facility was recommend by her Latham & Watkins lawyers and Judge Gorton said he thought that was a good location for the Bureau of Prison to consider.
However, in describing the “fairy tale” of Loughlin’s “charmed life,” Judge Gorton was not in a particularly quiescent mood this morning, having now sentenced nearly 10 well-heeled parents in the ongoing Operation Varsity Blues operation so far.
Reprimanding Loughlin for her “inexplicable desire to have more” after having “more money than you could possibly need,” the federal judge bluntly told the actress that she had participated “in the corruption of the system of higher education in this country.”
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Loughlin, like her husband, participated in the hearing by Zoom with her attorney Sean Berkowitiz next to her in front of an empty bookcase. Berkowitz was also seen earlier in the day with Giannulli. Absent from Giannulli’s hearing, Loughlin’s other lawyer BJ Trach was on separate screen this morning.
Also like her fashion designer husband, the former When Calls the Heart star’s sentence was based on the plea agreement made with the U.S. Attorney’s office in May. To that end, as well as the two months behind bars, Loughlin’s deal involve two years of supervised release, a $150,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service.
Loughlin and Giannulli paid $500,000 through the phony Key Worldwide Foundation run by William “Rick” Singer to have “their offspring designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew,” as the indictment of March last year revealed.
In one more similarity to Giannulli’s hearing, the virtual hearing in front of Judge Gorton was drubbed by audio problems of muted microphones and echoes – as both sides discovered.
“Loughlin was fully complicit in a serious offense,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin O’Connell told Judge Gorton and those watching and listening in though some sporadic static. “The sentence is necessary to provide adequate deterrent,” the federal prosecutor added.
As they had for her husband, Loughlin’s lawyers outlined “her fierce love for her children,” and her working class background. They additionally made sure to note her recent volunteer work with special needs children. “This conduct is completely out of character for Lori,” attorney BJ Trach proclaimed of the now disgraced Aunty Becky actress in her role in getting her daughters into USC on false premises.
“I think it is fair to say that of all the parents charged,” Loughlin was the most “passive” in the scheme, Trach went on to assert. Cutting out occasionally, he also laid out a long list of the roles and sponsorships that his client has lost as a result of her crimes.
Far from the harshest sentence of the ongoing Operation Varsity Blues investigation, Loughlin will be serving a lot more time than fellow Hollywood star Felicity Huffman. The American Crime actress pleaded guilty in the case early on and in September 2019 was sentenced to 14 days in a federal prison for her actions. The leniency came from Huffman, an Oscar nominee, having made a deal with the government almost from the jump and had handed over just $15,000 to Singer, as opposed to the half a million Loughlin and Giannulli paid out for their daughters.
PREVIOUSLY, 8:41 AM: Lori Loughlin’s husband Mossimo Giannulli will be going to prison for five months later this year for his role in the nationwide college bribery scheme.
“I deeply regret the harm my actions caused my daughters, my wife,” the fashion designer said this morning in half-hour hearing over his efforts to get his children in top tier schools by spurious means. “I accept the consequences.” The Full House star herself is scheduled to be sentenced separately later today.
Accusing Giannulli of “wanton arrogance coming from excessive pride,” U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said the defendant committed a “breathtaking fraud on our system of education.” He ordered the designer to surrender himself on November 19 at a facility designated by the Bureau of Prisons.
The plea deal worked out in May between the deep pocket couple and the government set out “a term of imprisonment of five months, a $250,000 fine, and 250 hours of community service for Giannulli; and a term of imprisonment of two months, a $150,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service for Loughlin.”
While the in-person and COVID-19-dictated virtual hearings in the college bribery scandal took place in Massachusetts federal court, Loughlin and Giannulli are expected to serve their incarceration in a California federal prison like fellow college admissions scammer Felicity Huffman did last year. In fact, Giannulli’s lawyer Sean Berkowitz requested today that his client be remanded to the medium security facility at Lompac, CA.
Based on acceptance of the agreement from earlier this year with Giannulli and Loughlin’s Latham & Watkins attorneys, the sentencing came today in a hearing before the federal judge. With lawyer Berkowtiz by his side, the seemingly chastened fashion designer participated in the hearing remotely.
Hobbled by audio problems throughout, Giannulli’s hearing was conducted via Zoom, as has become typical in many courts during the coronavirus pandemic. “Excuse me, Ms. Kearney, can you move closer to the microphone, you are cutting out a bit,” Judge Norton had to interject as Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Kearney presented the government’s POV Friday morning.
“It is an appropriate sentence,” Berkowitz admitted in a statement for his client at the hearing. Giving a personal history of Giannulli, recent family losses, and how he never attended college himself, the attorney bluntly said copped to the “mistakes and criminal decisions Moss made.” Berkowitz added: “he accepts full responsibility.”
Having formally pleaded not guilty in mid-April last year after first turning down a previously offered government deal, Loughlin and Giannulli were initially accused of paying phony Key Worldwide Foundation boss William “Rick” Singer “bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their offspring designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC,” according to a 200-page indictment made public on March 12 last year that snagged more than 30 parents nationwide.
With new charges added in April of this year, the couple were looking at around 50 years behind bars and millions in fines for handing out the big bucks and fake qualifications to Singer in successful efforts to get their girls into the California university. After months of fighting the feds over their individual indictments in the nationwide Operation Varsity Blues, the couple obviously decided this spring to take the path of least resistance and more lenient punishment.
Not that their crimes weren’t still put under the spotlight by the office of the U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts.
“Loughlin took a less active role, but was nonetheless fully complicit, eagerly enlisting Singer a second time for her younger daughter, and coaching her daughter not to ‘say too much’ to her high school’s legitimate college counselor, lest he catch on to their fraud,” prosecutor’s sentencing memo of August 17 stated, putting Giannulli more at fault for “brazenly lying” to cover up the shenanigans.
Though unmentioned today, Loughlin and Giannulli could benefit in the fall from how hard the COVID-19 crisis has struck the overcrowded prison system. Across the nation, the pandemic has seen the federal government and many states let a significant number of non-violent offenders serve out their time at home to help prevent further spread of the disease.
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