When Hollywood star Lori Loughlin’s daughters were being accepted to USC as crew team recruits, something felt strange to their high school guidance counselor.
And that’s because, prosecutors say, their admissions were fraudulent.
Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are among the dozens of defendants charged for allegedly paying bribes to get their children into top schools as part of a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.
Giannulli was released on $1 million bond Tuesday, and Loughlin, whose TV credits include roles on “Full House,” “Fuller House,” and “Beverly Hills 90210,” is slated to make her initial court appearance Wednesday in California. They’ll both appear in Boston at a later date.
The Hollywood power couple allegedly arranged, via payoffs and photos of their daughters on rowing machines, to have them presented to USC as recruits for the crew team, paving their way for admission even though they never rowed crew.
But the daughters’ guidance counselor started asking questions in late 2017.
“According to [bribery ringleader William Singer], the counselor did not believe that either of the Giannullis’ daughters participated in crew, and was concerned that their applications may have contained misleading information,” said an FBI affidavit.
Loughlin, on Dec. 12, 2017, wrote an e-mail to Singer after her younger daughter gained provisional acceptance to USC, and the actress included an apparent reference to the guidance counselor as “our little friend,” records show.
“[Our younger daughter] has not submitted all her colleges [sic] apps and is confused on how to do so,” Loughlin wrote. “I want to make sure she gets those in as I don’t want to call any attention to [her] with our little friend at [her high school]. Can you tell us how to proceed?”
Singer had one of his employees submit applications on behalf of the couple’s younger daughter, and on Feb. 8, 2018, Giannulli wired $200,000 to an account controlled by Singer’s sham charity, which he used to hide bribery payments, according to prosecutors.
On April 12, 2018, after the couple’s younger daughter had been formally accepted to USC, the guidance counselor sent Giannulli an e-mail indicating a change of heart, records show.
“I wanted to provide you with an update on the status of [your younger daughter’s] admission offer to USC,” the counselor wrote. “First and foremost, they have nointention of rescinding [her] admission and were surprised to hear that was even a concern for you and your family. ... I also shared with [the USC senior director of admission] that you had visited this morning and affirmed for me that [your younger daughter] is truly a coxswain” on a crew team.
On the same day, the affidavit said, Singer got a voicemail from Donna Heinel, an official in the USC athletic department. Heinel, now charged with racketeering conspiracy in the case, told Singer to advise Loughlin’s daughters to keep up the front when they arrived on campus, records show.
“I just want to make sure that, you know, I don’t want the — the parents getting angry and creating any type of disturbance at the school,” Heinel told Singer. “I just want to make sure those students ... if questioned at the school that they respond in a[n] appropriate way that they are, walk-on candidates for their respective sports. They’re looking forward to trying out for the team and making the team when they get here. OK? ... So I just don’t want anybody going into ... [the GIANNULLIS’ daughters’ high school], you know, yelling at counselors. That’ll shut everything — that’ll shut everything down.”
Singer later decided to cooperate with the FBI and in November 2018, he had a secretly recorded phone call with Loughlin and referenced the money laundering element of the scheme: parents would cut large checks to Singer’s foundation for supposed charitable purposes, when the cash was actually payment for his illicit help in getting their kids admitted to schools.
Singer told Loughlin his foundation was being audited and if the IRS called her, she should know “that nothing has been said about the girls, your donations helping the girls get into USC to do ... crew even though they didn’t do crew, so nothing like that has been ever mentioned.”
Loughlin said at one point, “So we — so we just have to say we made a donation to your foundation and that’s it, end of story,” the affidavit said.
Singer told her, “that is correct,” and he told Giannulli in earlier call, “I just want to make sure that our stories are the same ... and that your $400K was paid to our foundation to help underserved kids.”
“Uh, perfect,” Giannulli said.
Page Six reported Tuesday that Loughlin, in a prior appearance on the “Today” show, had spoken excitedly about her older daughter’s enrollment at USC.
““I think I’m in complete denial, I really am because when I think about it too much it will make me cry so I gotta stop,” Loughlin said in the television appearance, according to Page Six, which also noted that Loughlin could be seen “fanning away crocodile tears” in the clip.