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Lori Loughlin sentenced to 2 months, husband to 5 months, in college admissions scandal

The "Full House" actress will spend time behind bars for her role in a scheme to falsely portray her daughters as elite athletes.
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Actress Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison on Friday, and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, to five months for their roles in a far-reaching college admissions cheating scandal.

The "Full House" actress told U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton that she'll "redeem myself" and "use this experience as a catalyst to do good and give back for the rest of my life."

Loughlin appeared to be reading from a prepared statement when she then wiped her eyes and seemed to speak off script in her final words to the judge.

"Your honor I am truly, profoundly and deeply sorry," she said. " I am ready to face the consequences and make amends."

Loughlin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in May after more than a year of her and Giannulli fighting with prosecutors over their part in the larger national scandal dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

She was sentenced in federal court Friday, hours after her husband's sentencing, for a plot that helped their daughters gain admission to the University of Southern California.

Giannulli also pleaded guilty in May, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud in connection with the scheme.

Prosecutors said Giannulli took a much more active role in the scheme - that falsely portrayed the couple's daughters as elite crew athletes - and deserved more jail time.

And while Judge Gorton seemed to have sympathy for Loughlin, he questioned why the actress would have made such poor choices.

"Here you are, an admired, successful, professional actor with a long lasting marriage, two apparently healthy, resilient children, more money than you could possible need, a beautiful home in sunny Southern California - a fairy tale life," Gorton said.

"Yet you stand me before a convicted felon. Any for what? For the inexplicable desire to grasp even more."

At universities that play major sports, like Southern Cal, wide latitude is granted to coaches and athletic departments to flag top-notch athletes for special consideration for admission.

By having their children fake their way through admissions as elite crew athletes, when they had no substantial connection to the sport, Loughlin and her husband denied two other teens a chance to attend USC, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin O’Connell said.

The family already had immense wealth and connection to get the daughters into a wide range of schools, O'Connell said.

“For most, those advantages are a pipe dream - but for this defendant they were simply not enough,” O’Connell told the judge.

“So when it came time for her daughters to apply to college, Loughlin opted to cheat, to use fraud so that her children could steal two admission spots belonging to more capable and deserving students.”

While Loughlin's defense lawyer William Trach admitted his client's guilt, he said the actress and her daughters are being unduly punished in the court of public opinion.

Trach cited search engine results he claims shows Loughlin's name is now synonymous with the scandal, despite having exchanged just 15 emails in three years with the scandal's mastermind, William "Rick" Singer.

"I think it's fair to say that of all the parents charged in this broad investigation, not a single one had less active participation in this scheme than Lori," Trach said.

"Because of her celebrity, Lori has been the undisputed face of the national scandal."

Friday’s sentencing hearing was a virtual one in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

While Judge Gorton was wearing a robe and speaking from his Boston courtroom, prosecutors, the defendants and their lawyers all appeared via computer feeds.

Gorton had tough words for Giannulli, scolding the defendant for callously taking advantage of privilege.

"I see lots of drug dealers, gun runners and people who have committed violent crimes who’ve grown up without role models, sometimes being abused themselves," Gorton said.

“You are not stealing bread to feed your family. You have no excuse for your crime. That makes it all the more blameworthy."

Giannulli led "the good life in Southern California," but still committed a crime "motivated by hubris," according to the judge.

"You are an informed, smart, successful businessman," Gorton said. "You certainly did know better and yet you helped sponsor a breathtaking fraud on our system of education and involved your wife and your two daughters in cheating and faking their ways into a prestigious university."

Neither of the daughters has been charged and they are both no longer enrolled in USC.

Loughlin and Giannulli were both ordered to report to prison on Nov. 19.

The defense hopes to Giannulli will be sent to a federal lockup in Lompoc, California, which is about 150 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Loughlin hopes to land at a facility in Victorville, which is about 90 miles northeast of central L.A.

Judge Gorton said he'd pass on both defense requests to prison officials, who'd have the final say on where Giannulli and Loughlin do their time.

In addition to his prison sentence, Giannulli was ordered Friday to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. Loughlin was hit with $150,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.

Friday's sentencing comes after federal investigators last year uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid thousands of dollars to a California man who boosted their children's chances of gaining entrance into elite colleges.

The scheme was led by Singer, who ran a for-profit college counseling and preparation business. Singer torpedoed the entire operation when he agreed to wear a wire and cooperate with investigators.

A number of other privileged parents were caught up in the scandal, including the “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman.

Huffman served 11 days of a 14-day sentence in October after she admitted to paying for someone to proctor and correct her daughter's college board test, which resulted in the score jumping 400 points above her PSAT performance to 1420 out of a possible 1600.