Federal prosecutors added money laundering to the list of accusations against actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and 14 other prominent parents Tuesday in the college admissions bribery case, increasing the pressure on them to plead guilty as other parents have agreed to do.
Loughlin, who starred in the sitcom Full House, and Giannulli are among 33 wealthy parents accused of participating in a scheme that involved rigging college entrance exams and bribing coaches at top universities. The new charges come a day after Desperate Housewives actress Felicity Huffman, 12 other parents and a coach agreed to plead guilty.
The parents were arrested last month on a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. An indictment brought Tuesday adds a charge of money laundering conspiracy against the couple and the 14 other parents.
Other parents indicted on the new charge Tuesday include Michelle Janavs, whose family developed the microwave snack line Hot Pockets before selling their company, and William McGlashan, who co-founded an investment fund with U2’s Bono in 2017.
McGlashan’s attorney John Hueston said Tuesday the case against him “is deeply flawed.”
“We look forward to presenting his side of the story,” Hueston said.
Messages seeking comment were left with representatives for Loughlin, Giannulli and Janavs.
Attorneys for the parents charged in the indictment Tuesday accused prosecutors of “judge shopping” to get their case in front of a tough jurist. In a letter to the chief judge of Boston’s federal court, the lawyers said the parents shouldn’t be added to an indictment that has already been assigned to Judge Nathaniel Gorton.
U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling shot back, calling the letter “inappropriate” and a “Hail Mary by people who know better.”
“What counsel fail to say – but of course mean – is that they want a different judge because they perceive Judge Gorton as imposing longer sentences in criminal cases than other judges in the district; if this matter had been drawn to a judge viewed as more favourable to the defence, counsel would not have sent the letter,” Lelling wrote in response.
This isn’t the first time such a charge has popped up in the sweeping case. Amy and Gregory Colburn, a California couple accused of paying $25,000 to cheat on their son’s SAT, were indicted last month on money laundering and mail fraud conspiracy charges.
The parents charged in the case are accused of paying an admissions consultant, Rick Singer, to cheat on their children’s college entrance exams and get their children admitted as athletic recruits at schools including Georgetown and Yale. It’s the largest such scheme ever prosecuted by the Justice Department.
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport.
They appeared in Boston federal court briefly last week and were not asked to enter a plea.
Huffman, the 56-year-old Emmy winner who stared in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” was accused of paying $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to have a proctor correct the answers on her daughter’s SAT. She and the 12 other parents agreed Monday to plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Prosecutors say they will seek a prison sentence that’s on the low end of between four and 10 months for Huffman. Huffman is scheduled to appear in Boston’s federal court on May 24 to plead guilty.
In her first public comments since her arrest, Huffman on Monday took responsibility for her actions and said she would accept the consequences.
“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,” she said after her plea deal was announced.