Full House actress Lori Loughlin must serve two months in prison and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, must serve five months for paying half a million dollars in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as rowing recruits, a US federal judge ruled.
US District Judge Nathaniel Gorton accepted Loughlin’s plea deal with prosecutors in a hearing held via videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic after sentencing her husband in an earlier hearing.
In the first display of remorse either of them have made publicly over the fraud, Giannulli told the judge he “deeply” regrets the harm that his actions have caused his daughters, wife and others.
“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,” Giannulli said in a short statement in which he showed little emotion.
In accepting the plea deals, Judge Gorton said the prison terms are “sufficient but not greater than necessary punishment under the circumstances”.
Judge Gorton scolded Giannulli for what he described as “breathtaking fraud” made possible by his wealth and privilege.
“You were not stealing bread to feed your family.
“You have no excuse for your crime and that makes it all the more blameworthy,” the judge told Giannulli before officially sentencing him.
Giannulli was ordered to surrender on November 19.
Under the plea deal, Giannulli will also pay a 250,000 US dollar fine and perform 250 hours of community service.
Loughlin will pay a 150,000 US dollar fine and perform 100 hours of community service.
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 once accepted.
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 children into elite universities.
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 children into college with rigged test scores or fake athletic credentials.
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.
Other parents who have been sentenced to prison in the case have later urged the judge to allow them to serve their terms in home confinement because of the coronavirus pandemic, but Judge Gorton, known in the courthouse for handing out tough sentences, has denied such requests.
Before Friday, 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 by the deadline, although Judge Gorton said he received two letters in support of Loughlin the day of the 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”.
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 US dollars to have someone correct her daughter’s entrance exam answers.