“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband found themselves in deeper legal trouble Tuesday, possibly facing 20 or more years in prison after they were indicted along with 14 other parents across the country on conspiracy and money-laundering charges stemming from a college-admissions cheating scandal.
Loughlin, 54, and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, 55, were originally charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for allegedly paying $500,000 to have their daughters admitted to USC by portraying them as recruits to the university’s crew team, even though neither had ever participated in the rowing sport.
But a new indictment announced by federal prosecutors in Boston added a charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Prosecutors said the couple, along with 14 other parents, allegedly conspired to launder bribes paid to admitted ringleader William Singer — a Newport Beach businessman — “by funneling them through Singer’s purported charity and his for-profit corporation.”
Prosecutors said the defendants also transferred money from outside the United States “for the purpose of promoting the fraud scheme.”
The charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $500,000. The fraud-conspiracy charge also carries a maximum 20-year prison term, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
Fifty people across the country, including parents and some college athletics coaches, have been implicated in the scandal, and some have already struck plea deals with prosecutors, including “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman.
Huffman has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for paying $15,000 to have her oldest daughter’s answers corrected on the SAT college-entrance exam. Prosecutors are expected to recommend a roughly four-month prison term for Huffman, although her attorneys will likely argue that she be spared any time in custody.
Loughlin and other parents now indicted on the money-laundering charge could find themselves facing heftier prison terms. Among those named in the new indictment were I-Hsin “Joey” Chen, 64, of Newport Beach; Douglas Hodge, 61, of Laguna Beach; Michelle Janavs, 48, of Newport Coast; and Homayoun Zadeh, 57, of Calabasas.
Singer pleaded guilty last month to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Several coaches at local universities were arrested in connection with the alleged $25 million scheme. Federal prosecutors said the conspiracy involved wealthy parents who would pay thousands of dollars to get their children admitted to prestigious universities by passing them off as recruited athletes — regardless of their athletic ability — or by helping them cheat on college entrance exams.
Federal prosecutors said that in some cases, the ruse over fake athletic recruiting included the use of staged or faked photos of the students posing with athletic equipment or appearing to compete in sports they did not actually play.
Athletic coaches from USC, UCLA, Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest and Georgetown, among others, were implicated in the scheme, as well as parents and entrance-exam administrators.
There was no indication that the schools themselves were involved in the scheme.
When federal authorities announced the indictments, USC announced that two of its employees implicated in the scandal — water polo coach Jovan Vavic and senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel — had been fired. UCLA men’s soccer coach Jorge Salcedo was placed on leave but later resigned.