As Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli each face an additional federal charge in the college admissions scandal, the Full House star and fashion designer are feeling escalated stress as they await their trial.
“They feel like this is David versus Goliath. How do you go up against the federal government, when the government has decided to make an example out of you? How can you possibly move forward from this?” a source close to Loughlin, 55, tells PEOPLE about the A-list couple.
“This stress is about to break them,” says the source.
PEOPLE is out to Loughlin’s rep for comment.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release that Loughlin, Giannulli and nine other defendants “conspired to commit federal program bribery by bribing employees of the University of Southern California (USC) to facilitate their children’s admission.” They have been charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery.
Federal programs bribery is defined as theft or bribery of an organization that receives more than 10,000 in federal funds. According to the U.S. Penal Code, the charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.
Since the newest charges were brought against Loughlin and Giannulli, the source says the actress is feeling a mixture of emotions: “She is angry, she is sad, but most of all, she is terrified.”
“It just gets worse and worse for her. And you have to remember: nothing new has happened. They could have charged her with all of this last spring. But they waited,” the source explains. “She feels like she is a scapegoat.”
Prior to the new charges, Loughlin and Giannulli both already faced charges of money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud. They previously faced up to 40 years in prison and have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On March 12, the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts indicted Loughlin and Giannulli in the shocking nationwide scam as part of an investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. Nearly 50 other parents, coaches, exam proctors and admissions counselors are accused of actions such as paying for boosted SAT scores and lying about students’ athletic skills in order to gain them acceptance to elite colleges including Yale, Georgetown, USC and Stanford.
Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 to admissions consultant William Singer to falsely designate daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli, 19, and Isabella Rose Giannulli, 20, as recruits to the USC crew team, though neither actually participated in the sport. (On Monday, the USC Registrar confirmed that “Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli are not currently enrolled” at the university.)
In April, the couple rejected an offer for a deal from prosecutors. Currently, Loughlin and Giannulli are awaiting their trial after pleading not guilty. It is unclear when they will enter a plea to the latest charge.
But now, the new charges — and likelihood of increased prison time — have escalated tensions within the home.
“The entire family is in chaos right now. They knew this was a possibility, but they all thought that perhaps it was just a bargaining tool from the prosecution,” shares the source.
Says the source, “Now that the charges are official, they are realizing that there is no way to avoid a moderately long prison sentence, unless they are found not guilty in a trial.”
In a statement to PEOPLE on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lellling said that the new charges have a goal of achieving justice. “Today’s charges are the result of ongoing investigation in the nationwide college admissions case,” Lelling said. “Our goal from the beginning has been to hold the defendants fully accountable for corrupting the college admissions process through cheating, bribery and fraud. The superseding indictments will further that effort.”
Their new charges comes two months after a Loughlin legal source told PEOPLE at the end of August that no matter the outcome of their trail, the couple is committed to sticking together.
“Lori and Mossimo are united in this,” the legal source said.
“Lori is ready for this to be over,” the source added. “They all are. At this point it would be better to spend a few months in jail — because she’s been spending the last several months in her own prison.”