Judge in Lori Loughlin case calls claim of investigator misconduct 'disturbing'

Lori Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are among accused parents in college admissions scandal who say federal agents pressured a cooperating witness to entrap them.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Minyvonne Burke and Diana Dasrath

The judge overseeing Lori Loughlin's college admissions scandal case said he was disturbed by allegations that federal investigators pressured a cooperating witness to entrap parents.

Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are among dozens of parents accused of paying bribes to get their children into top-tier colleges and universities.

The "Full House" actress and her husband allegedly paid $500,000 to get their two daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, into the University of Southern California as crew recruits even though neither girl was a rower.

Loughlin and Giannulli have pleaded not guilty to fraud, bribery and money laundering conspiracy charges.

Attorneys for the couple and a group of other defendants asked the judge to dismiss the case, according to newly-obtained court documents. The attorneys cite notes from the scheme's mastermind and government cooperating witness, William "Rick" Singer, in which he says that investigators instructed him to "bend the truth" and "tell a fib" in order to "retrieve responses that are not accurate."

Singer helped investigators by wearing a wire to expose the scam.

His notes say that federal investigators "fabricated evidence to create the false impression that Defendants knowingly paid bribes to corrupt insiders, rather than made legitimate donations to help their children’s chances of admission."

The documents go on to say that investigators used this tactic because other evidence shows that the defendants "believed their payments were legitimate donations."

"Without proof of fraudulent intent, the Government’s case falls apart," the court filing by the defendants' lawyers says.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton responded by saying that the allegations in Singer's notes were "serious and disturbing."

"While government agents are permitted to coach cooperating witnesses during the course of an investigation, they are not permitted to suborn the commission of a crime," Gorton wrote.

The judge asked prosecutors to respond to Singer's allegations. Previously prosecutors have said that there was no need to investigate the claims because agents knew they were untrue and "there was nothing to investigate," according to the judge's order.