Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Judge Accepts Giannulli Plea Deal in College Bribery Scheme
gvw_ap_news
By Associated Press
Published 4 years ago on
August 21, 2020

Share

BOSTON — Fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli will be sentenced to five months in prison after a federal judge accepted his plea deal with prosecutors on charges that he paid half a million dollars in bribes to get his two daughters into the University of Southern California as rowing recruits.

The famous couple’s sentencing comes three months after they reversed course and admitted to participating in the college admissions cheating scheme that has laid bare the lengths to which some wealthy parents will go to get their kids into elite universities.

“I deeply regret the harm that my actions have caused my daughters, my wife and others,” Giannulli said in a short statement during the hearing, showing little emotion. “I take full responsibility for my conduct. I am ready to accept the consequences and move forward with the lessons I’ve learned from this experience.”

His wife, “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, is expected to be sentenced later Friday after pleading guilty under a deal with prosecutors that calls for her to serve two months in prison.

Unlike most plea agreements, in which the judge remains free to decide the defendant’s sentence, Loughlin’s and Giannulli’s proposed prison terms were binding if accepted.

In accepting Giannulli’s plea deal, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said the prison sentence stipulated “is sufficient but not greater than necessary punishment under the circumstances.”

Under the plea deal, Giannulli will pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. Loughlin’s calls for her to pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service.

The famous couple’s sentencing comes three months after they reversed course and admitted to participating in the college admissions cheating scheme that has laid bare the lengths to which some wealthy parents will go to get their kids into elite universities.

‘A Complete Disregard for Right and Wrong’

They are among nearly 30 prominent parents to plead guilty in the case, which federal prosecutors dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” It uncovered hefty bribes to get undeserving kids into college with rigged test scores or fake athletic credentials.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Kearney said Giannulli displayed “a complete disregard for right and wrong,” and a “privileged and entitled attitude.”

“This disrespect of right and wrong deserves a meaningful sentence of imprisonment,” she said.

Giannulli’s attorney, Sean Berkowitz, described his client’s actions as “out of character.”

Loughlin and Giannulli had insisted for more than a year that they believed their payments were “legitimate donations” and accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple’s innocence because it would undermine their case.

Their about-face came shortly after the judge rejected their bid to dismiss the case over allegations of misconduct by federal agents.

The case shattered the clean image of Loughlin, who gained fame for her role as the wholesome Aunt Becky in the sitcom “Full House” that ran from the late 1980s to mid-1990s, and later became queen of the Hallmark channel with her holiday movies and the series “When Calls the Heart.”

Defense May Be Hoping That Loughlin and Giannulli Can Avoid Prison Altogether

Both Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded guilty to charges including conspiracy to commit fraud. Prosecutors agreed to dismiss charges of money laundering and federal programs bribery that were added after the case was filed.

Experts have said the defense may be hoping that Loughlin and Giannulli can avoid prison altogether and serve their punishments at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Gorton, known in the courthouse for handing out tough sentences, has denied requests by other parents to serve their sentences in home confinement.

Experts have said the defense may be hoping that Loughlin and Giannulli can avoid prison altogether and serve their punishments at home because of the coronavirus pandemic. But Gorton, known in the courthouse for handing out tough sentences, has denied requests by other parents to serve their sentences in home confinement.

The couple had not made any public statements since their arrest and — unlike every other parent sentenced to far in the case — they did not submit letters expressing regret or notes of support from family and friends to the judge ahead of their sentencing.

Prosecutors said Giannulli deserves a tougher sentence because he was “the more active participant in the scheme,” while Loughlin “took a less active role, but was nonetheless fully complicit.”

“He regrets deeply bringing his wife into the scheme, he regrets deeply the consequences this has had for his family. His children have been bullied both in social media and in person,” Berokwitz said. “The family has been the face of the crisis and the scandal.”

The couple funneled money through a sham charity operated by college admissions consultant Rick Singer to get their two daughters into USC as crew recruits, even though neither was a rower, authorities said. Singer, who has also pleaded guilty, was expected to testify against them if they had gone to trial.

When the Counselor Began Questioning Their Crew Credentials, Giannulli Angrily Confronted the Counselor

Investigators had recorded phone calls and emails showing the couple worked with Singer to get their daughters into USC with fake athletic profiles depicting them as star rowers. In one email, Singer told Loughlin and Giannulli he needed a picture of their older daughter on a rowing machine in workout clothes “like a real athlete.”

Prosecutors said the couple allowed the girls “to become complicit in crime,” instructing them to pose on rowing machines for photos and warning their younger daughter not too say too much to her high school counselor to avoid getting caught.

When the counselor began questioning their crew credentials, Giannulli angrily confronted the counselor and asked why he was “trying to ruin or get in the way of their opportunities,” the counselor wrote in notes detailed in court documents.

After the couple successfully bribed their younger daughter’s way into USC, Singer forwarded them a letter saying she was let in because of her “potential to make a significant contribution to the intercollegiate athletic program,” prosecutors wrote.

Loughlin responded: “This is wonderful news! (high-five emoji),” according to court filings.

Among the high-profile parents who have been sent to prison for participating in the scam is “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman. She served nearly two weeks behind bars late last year after she admitted to paying $15,000 to have someone correct her daughter’s entrance exam answers.

RELATED TOPICS:

DON'T MISS

Surprising Ways and Places You Can Use SNAP EBT Food Benefits

DON'T MISS

Californians Worry About Crime, Setting up a Ballot Measure Showdown

DON'T MISS

The Pickle Flavor Frenzy and Its Rise in Food Trends

DON'T MISS

Kate Hudson Had a Lifetime to Make a Record. The Result is ‘Glorious,’ Out in May

DON'T MISS

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

DON'T MISS

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

DON'T MISS

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

DON'T MISS

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

DON'T MISS

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

DON'T MISS

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

UP NEXT

Kate Hudson Had a Lifetime to Make a Record. The Result is ‘Glorious,’ Out in May

UP NEXT

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

UP NEXT

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

UP NEXT

Rare House Vote Sees Ukraine, Israel Aid Advance as Democrats Join Republicans

UP NEXT

Full Jury and 6 Alternates Seated in Trump’s Hush Money Trial

UP NEXT

How 4/20 Grew From Humble Roots to Marijuana’s High Holiday

UP NEXT

Taylor Swift Drops 15 New Songs on Double Album, ‘The Tortured Poets Department: The Anthology’

UP NEXT

Barbara Corcoran: 1% Interest Rate Drop Will Send Housing Prices ‘Through the Roof’

UP NEXT

Savannah Bananas Dominate Social Media, Sell Out Stadiums Nationwide Including Fresno

UP NEXT

Big Names in Rap, Christian Music, and Comedy Headline Must-See Weekend Entertainment

Kate Hudson Had a Lifetime to Make a Record. The Result is ‘Glorious,’ Out in May

2 days ago

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

2 days ago

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

2 days ago

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

3 days ago

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

3 days ago

Real Estate Experts Talk Fresno’s Economic Future. Are Tough Times Ahead?

3 days ago

Unlocking the Secrets to Fresno State’s Superb Baseball Season

3 days ago

‘This Is How to Improve Reading Proficiency. We Just Have To Execute It’: FUSD Board President

3 days ago

Does Dyer Support (or Endorse) Bredefeld for Supervisor?

3 days ago

Get a 3D First Look at Merced’s High-Speed Rail Station Design

3 days ago

Surprising Ways and Places You Can Use SNAP EBT Food Benefits

Did you know that SNAP EBT benefits used to be called food stamps and that recipients can use those benefits to get healthy food in places o...

1 day ago

1 day ago

Surprising Ways and Places You Can Use SNAP EBT Food Benefits

1 day ago

Californians Worry About Crime, Setting up a Ballot Measure Showdown

2 days ago

The Pickle Flavor Frenzy and Its Rise in Food Trends

2 days ago

Kate Hudson Had a Lifetime to Make a Record. The Result is ‘Glorious,’ Out in May

2 days ago

Long-Lost First Model of USS Enterprise from ‘Star Trek’ Boldly Goes Home

2 days ago

California Leaders Take Sides in Monumental Supreme Court Case on Homelessness

3 days ago

Man Sets Himself on Fire Outside Trump Hush Money Trial Court

3 days ago

McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines Are So Unreliable They’re a Meme. They Might Also Be a Climate Solution.

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend