Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli both pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud in a Zoom court hearing on Friday after accepting a ‘slap on the wrist’ deal that gives her just two months of jail and him five months in prison for bribing her daughters’ way into college.
No photography or recording of the Zoom hearing was allowed but media were allowed to dial in. There were more than 200 people on the video call.
Lori and her husband were in separate rooms for the hearing, both with their own attorneys. It is unclear where they were dialing in from; if they were in their lawyers’ offices or in their home.
They both answered ‘guilty’ when asked for their pleas. The judge asked or a pre-sentencing report. He has not yet accepted or rejected the deals and the pair will be sentenced on Friday August 21. There was a delay in the proceedings while attorneys on both sides tuned in.
During the wait, Lori and her attorney spoke and sometimes laughed. Their microphone was muted so none of the hundreds of other participants in the Zoom room could hear what they were saying.
Throughout, there were technical difficulties. Lori’s attorney forgot to unmute while speaking and at one point, their video feed disappeared, prompting Judge Nathaniel Gorton to ask where they were. She reappeared and called out: ‘I’m here your honor.’
The judge’s microphone then dropped out while he asked if Lori understood the plea agreement.
Loughlin wore a green blouse and minimal make-up. Her husband, sporting a full beard, wore a navy blue suit, white shirt and navy tie.
She answered ‘yes your honor’ to Judge Gorton’s questions while her husband answered: ‘Yes, sir.’
Before entering her pleas, she stated her name, ‘Lori Ann Loughlin’, her age, (55), and her educational background as ‘high school graduate from New York’.
Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli (pictured last year) on Friday pleaded guilty to fraud in a Zoom court hearing that media were allowed to dial in to but could not photograph or record
Lori with the couple’s daughters Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose (left). She and her husband paid Rick Singer, the scheme’s mastermind, to pass them off as crew stars when neither had played the sport
The pair signed plea agreements on Wednesday
When asked what she was being charged with, Loughlin answered: ‘Conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud.’
Before entering their pleas, prosecutor Eric Rosen laid out the facts of the indictment which include an email from Giannulli to his financial adviser in which he admitted bribing his daughter’s way into college.
LOUGHLIN AND GIANNULLI ASK FOR EARLY SENTENCING
The judge set a sentencing date for August 21 but lawyers for the pair asked for it to be brought forward to July 30.
The reason they gave was that they wanted the process to be over as soon as possible.
Giannulli’s lawyer also claimed it would avoid a jury pool being tainted for the trial for other parents that is due to happen later this year, because their case has brought so much media attention.
‘Our clients would obviously like to have finality on this process and so would request it be done slightly earlier,’ William Trach, Giannulli’s lawyer, said.
Judge Gorton denied their request and said the courts were already backed up enough by the coronavirus pandemic.
Some critics suggested on Thursday, after Lori and her husband’s plea deal was revealed, that they were trying to take advantage of a potential get-out-of-jail free card.
Several high profile, white collar criminals have had their sentences cut short after claiming they are susceptible to the virus.
They have been allowed to complete them at home.
It was sent in 2016 after he’d paid $250,000 to get Isabella into the school under the false pretense that she was a star rower.
The pair had even posed her on a rowing machine in workout gear to take a photograph to submit as part of her application.
‘Good news: my daughter is in at USC. Bad news is I had to work the system,’ he wrote in the email.
When they were trying to get their younger daughter into the school, Loughlin warned her against telling her high school counselor about USC being her top choice.
‘Don’t say too much to that man,’ she warned her daughter, Olivia.
After she had been provisionally accepted to the school, Giannulli went to her high school to speak with the counselor and ask him what he’d told USC officials about her experience in the sport.
When the counselor said he’d told them she did not participate in it, Giannulli corrected him.
Rosen said it was around that time that officials were becoming suspicious.
The actress and her husband both switched their pleas from not guilty to guilty on Wednesday after protesting their innocence for months while other wealthy and famous parents took deals and spent time behind bars.
The pair paid $500,000 to Rick Singer, the scheme’s mastermind who is now cooperating with the authorities, to get their daughters Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose into USC under the false pretense that they were rowing stars when neither had ever participated in the sport.
They were facing 40 years behind bars each but now, Lori will likely just serve two months and Mossimo will serve five months. Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton is yet to approve the agreements.
Lori and her husband sat in different rooms to enter the pleas.
The harshest sentence was handed to Douglas Hodge, who was given nine months for his role.
He paid bribes totaling $850,000 – from 2008 until 2012 – to get four of his children into the University of Southern California and Georgetown University as fake athletic recruits, prosecutors said.
Hodge is appealing his nine month sentence, which is the harshest punishment handed out so far in the case.
Others have ranged between just one day behind bars to a probation only sentences to sentences of a few weeks or months.
Felicity Huffman was one of the first. She served just 14 days in prison last year for paying $15,000 for a proctor to change her daughter Sophia’s SAT score.
Lori and Mossimo listed their Bel Air mansion for sale earlier this year for $28million.
At the time, sources told TMZ it had nothing to do with their case or any mounting legal fees and that the couple wanted to move on for Mossimo to explore another architecture project.
Singer had an array of exam monitors and sports staff within the colleges on the payroll who facilitated it.
Loughlin and her husband paid half a million dollars to help their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella, get into USC by pretending they were sports stars.
More than 50 people were charged after months of investigation which involved Singer cooperating with the authorities and recording some of his phone calls with parents.
Lori and Mossimo denied it immediately and said they thought they were giving to charity.
Other parents, like Huffman who paid to have one of her daughter’s test scores augmented to make it more impressive, admitted their roles and tearfully apologized in court.
The couple listed their $28million mansion for sale earlier this year. Sources say it has nothing to do with their finances
VARSITY BLUES PARENTS TRY TO GET OUT OF PRISON SENTENCES BY CLAIMING THEY’RE SUSCEPTIBLE TO CORONAVIRUS IN CUSTODY
VARSITY BLUES SENTENCES
Of the 53 parents and teachers who were wrapped up in the scandal, these are the ones who have been sentenced after accepting plea deals;
Felicity Huffman got 14 days
Recommended: Two months in prison; two years supervised release, 100 hours of community service, $150,000 fine
Recommended: Five months in prison; two years supervised release, 100 hours of community service, $150,000 fine
Douglas Hodge got the longest sentence: nine months
14 days prison, 1 year supervised release, 250 hours of community service, fine of $30,000
Nine months in prison, two years of supervised release, fine of $750,000, 500 hours of community service
1 month in prison, 1 year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, fine of $45,000
1 month in prison, 1 year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, fine of $45,000
Michelle Janav was sentenced to five months
3 weeks in prison, 1 year of supervised release, fine of $40,000
1 month prison, 1 year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, fine of $50,000
1 month in prison, 1 year of supervised released, 250 hours of community service, fine of $50,000
Agustin Huneus Jr.
5 months in prison, 2 years of supervised release, 500 hours of community service, $100,000 fine
Three weeks in prison, one year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service, fine of $9,500
Peter Jan Sartorio
One year probation, 250 hours of community service, fine of $9,500
Four months in prison, 2 years supervised release, 500 hours of community service, fine of $100,000
4 months in prison, 2 years supervised release, 500 hours of community service, fine of $95,000
6 months in prison, 1 year of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, fine of $150,000
2 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, 300 hours of community service per year of supervised release, fine of $250,000
Six months in prison, one year of supervised release, $60,000 forfeiture
Five months in prison, two years of supervised release, fine of $250,000
Some of the parents involved in the scandal tried to get out of their prison sentences or at least delay them by saying they were at risk of contracting coronavirus in prison.
Neither Lori Loughlin nor her husband made mention of it as a potential motivator for them to plead guilty after they took deals this week.
Their attorney declined to comment on their change of heart on Thursday.
But others have used it as a potential get-out-of-jail free card.
It follows a trend of other high profile, white collar criminals who have been released early or had their sentences delayed because of the virus.
Among them are associates of the president, Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort, who were both released from custody earlier this month.
Roger Stone had his sentence delayed.
Michelle Janavs, whose family invented Hot Pockets, and Douglas Hodge, the ex-CEO of Pacific Investment Management Co., can remain free until at least June 30, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton ruled Thursday.
Gorton denied their requests for home confinement instead of prison time, saying he will ‘not forfeit his obligation to impose a sentence that is warranted by a defendant’s criminal conduct’ despite the ‘evolving cause of concern’ posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Gorton said that if the crisis remains, he could renew their requests.
‘If the public health crisis has not abated by the time of the extended report date, the court will entertain further motions,’ the judge wrote.
Lawyers for Janavs and Hodge had argued it’s too dangerous to send them to prison.
The virus has been rampant in prisons and jails across the country, and U.S. Attorney General William Barr has instructed officials to consider moving nonviolent and vulnerable inmates to home confinement to help limit the spread of the virus behind bars.
Janav’s attorneys had asked if she could serve five months in home confinement at her mansion on California’s wealthy Newport Coast. According to real estate records, Janavs resides in a six-bedroom, nine-bathroom mansion estimated to be worth $11 million.
‘If Ms. Janavs were to surrender to (Bureau of Prisons) custody, she is highly likely to become infected with COVID-19.
‘And because of her underlying health condition, she faces a much higher risk than others of serious complications, hospitalization, or death from the virus,’ her lawyers wrote as part of her appeal.
Details about her health condition were blacked out in the filing.
Janavs is due to serve her sentence at FPC Bryan – a minimum-security facility located northeast of Austin, Texas.
Their lawyers didn’t immediately respond to email seeking comment Friday.
Janavs’ father co-founded Chef America Inc whose’ company created the microwavable food Hot Pockets before being sold to Nestle SA for $2.6 billion in 2002
Hodge, who served as CEO of Pimco from 2014 to 2016, had been scheduled to begin serving prison sentences of five and nine months, respectively earlier this month.
They were sentenced in February after pleading guilty to participating in a scheme in which wealthy parents conspired with a college admissions consultant through fraud and bribery to secure the admission of their children to top universities.
The judge said prison time was needed to deter others who might use their wealth to break the law.
She apologized for her actions and for hurting her family and friends.
Janavs was sentenced after admitting to paying the consultant at the center of the scheme $100,000 to have a proctor correct her two daughters´ ACT exam answers.
She also agreed to pay $200,000 to have one of her daughters labeled as a fake beach volleyball recruit at the University of Southern California but was arrested before she was formally admitted, prosecutors said.