Lori Loughlin, husband to plead guilty in college admissions scandal, agree to prison time

Prosecutors say the "Full House" actress faked the athletic credentials of her daughters to get them into USC.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
By David K. Li

Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband have agreed to plead guilty and serve prison time in a college admission scandal that rocked higher education, prosecutors said Thursday.

In a plea deal with federal prosecutors in Boston, the "Full House" actress and husband Mossimo Giannulli agreed to serve time in prison for passing off their daughters as elite athletes and securing their admission to the University of Southern California, federal prosecutors in Boston said.

Loughlin has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, and Giannulli to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud, authorities said.

If a federal judge signs off on the deals, Loughlin will spend two months in prison, pay a $150,000 fine, be subjected to two years of supervised release and perform 100 hours of community service, prosecutors said. Giannulli agreed to five months in prison, a $250,000 fine, two years of supervised release and 250 hours of community service.

“Under the plea agreements filed today, these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process and which are consistent with prior sentences in this case," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.

"We will continue to pursue accountability for undermining the integrity of college admissions."

The couple was dealt a legal setback this month when a judge sided with prosecutors and against defense lawyers' argument that FBI agents had improperly pressured the operation's ringleader, Rick Singer, who is a cooperating witness, to get incriminating evidence against defendants.

Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, will appear before Boston-based U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton at 11:30 a.m. ET on Friday to plead guilty, according to a spokeswoman for federal prosecutors.

With courts shuttered due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the hearing will be conducted by video conference so the actress and designer, who live in Los Angeles, don't have to physically be in Boston, prosecutors said. Gorton is expected to set another date to impose sentencing.

An attorney for the couple could not immediately be reached Thursday.

The admissions scandal ensnared more than 50 affluent parents and educators accused of using big-dollar, backdoor methods to get children into elite colleges.

Singer was paid millions of dollars to inflate student resumes by either passing them off as top-notch athletes or having their standardized test scores boosted.

In college sports, coaches are often given wide latitude to get their recruited student-athletes admitted. In Loughlin's case, for example, daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli were photographed working out on rowing machines used by crew athletes, prosecutors said.

The daughters, who never participated in crew, were not accused of any wrongdoing.

Loughlin and Oscar-nominated actress Felicity Huffman were the two biggest names caught up in the probe, dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues" by prosecutors.

Tom Winter contributed.