Much has been made of photos prosecutors claim Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, staged of their daughters on rowing equipment to get them admitted into the University of Southern California as crew recruits — and we’re finally seeing them for the first time.
Within a 423-page document filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office – District of Massachusetts this week in response to the defense’s motion to dismiss the case are photos of Olivia Jade, 20, and Isabella Giannulli, 21, wearing workout clothes while posing on ERG machines, or indoor rowers. While their faces are blurred in the pictures, each is identified within the document.
According to prosecutors for the college admissions scandal, the Full House actress, 55, and Giannulli, 56, started working with disgraced admissions expert William “Rick” Singer in the summer of 2015. Singer said he had a “game plan ready to go into motion” if Bella wanted to get into USC. The following year, Singer advised the couple he would “create a coxswain profile” for Bella — who was not a coxswain and did not row crew — and said, “[i]t would probably help to get a picture with her on an ERG in workout clothes like a real athlete too.” Giannulli replied, “Fantastic. Will get all” and in September 2016 he emailed Singer the picture of Bella posing on the ergometer.
According to the filing, Giannulli was instructed to send $50,000 to Donna Heinel at USC Athletics. A month later, Singer emailed Giannulli and Loughlin a letter from USC indicating that Bella had been provisionally admitted into the school, based upon “records [that] indicate that [she has] the potential to make a significant contribution to the intercollegiate athletic program.”
Bella was formally accepted in March 2017 and Giannulli was instructed to pay a $200,000 contribution to Singer’s fake charity, prosecutors say. At that time, Giannulli advised his financial advisor to pay the invoice, writing in another document obtained during the FBI investigation, “Good news my [older] daughter is in [U]SC ... bad [news] is I had to work the system.”
Four months later, Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly began the process again for YouTube star Olivia Jade, who didn’t participate in the sport either and bragged about only going to college so she could party.
According to the prosecutors, Giannulli, copying Loughlin, emailed Singer a photo of the social media influencer pretending to row for an athletic profile falsely presented her as a coxswain for the L.A. Marina Club crew team. (There is no L.A. Marina Club crew team.) Singer had former USC soccer coach Laura Janke, who worked with Singer at the time, create the fake profile and at one point Janke emailed Singer to say she needed more info on Olivia Jade to “finish her resume and add a rowing club to her profile based off where she lives.” (That fake résumé claimed Olivia Jade was at rowing competitions when her social media pages had her at social events — like a high school formal.)
Olivia Jade was also accepted to USC and Giannulli made the same $250,000 payment arrangement — $50,000 to Heinel and $200,000 to Singer’s shell charity. In an email Giannulli sent to his financial advisor asking him to pay the bill, he noted it was the “the last college ‘donation’” he was making — putting the word donation in quotes.
There was almost a last-minute hiccup in Olivia Jade getting into USC though, prosecutors say. A counselor at her private high school questioned why she was admitted to the college for rowing when she didn’t row. That led to Giannulli having a conversation with the counselor, allegedly insisting that the teen did in fact row. The investigation turned up an email from the counselor to Giannulli after that conversation saying the counselor had informed USC “that you had visited this morning and affirmed for me that [your younger daughter] is truly a coxswain.”
Singer pleaded guilty in the case in March 2019 — when the whole thing blew up and Loughlin and Giannulli were indicted along with other parents (including Felicity Huffman), coaches and administrators — and is cooperating with the government's investigation. Janke, who created the fake profile, also pleaded guilty and is cooperating. Heinel, who no longer works at USC, faces several charges.
As for Loughlin and Giannulli — who maintain their innocence — they face up to 50 years in prison each for the numerous charges against them. If things go as scheduled, they will go to trial on Oct. 5 in Boston federal court with jury selection starting in late September. They will be tried among the first group of defendants — including six other parents accused in the wider scheme.
Olivia Jade and Bella no longer attend USC and have maintained their social media presences.
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