Actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and nine other parents were indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on new charges in the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal.
Loughlin, 55, who starred as Aunt Becky on the series “Full House,” was charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, three counts of money laundering conspiracy, and one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and honest services mail fraud, records show.
Loughlin and Giannulli had been indicted previously on one count each of money laundering and honest services fraud for allegedly paying bribes to get their daughters into USC as fake crew recruits.
Giannulli was charged with the same additional counts as his wife in Tuesday’s new indictment. They’ll be arraigned on the new counts in US District Court in Boston at a later date.
Also among the 11 parents charged Tuesday is Lynnfield resident John Wilson, who faces two counts of substantive federal programs bribery in connection with his efforts to secure his children’s admission to Harvard University and Stanford University, according to federal authorities.
All of the parents are accused of attempting to bribe officials at an institution that receives at least $10,000 in federal funding, records show.
The additional charges are the second time prosecutors have added charges for parents who have not yet pled guilty in the so-called Varsity Blues scandal. In April, charges of money laundering were added to the initial charges of fraud and conspiracy, the Globe reported.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to hold the defendants fully accountable for corrupting the college admissions process through cheating, bribery and fraud. The superseding indictments will further that effort,” Andrew Lelling, the US attorney for Massachusetts said in a statement announcing Tuesday’s indictments.
Loughlin’s legal team didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry seeking comment.
All of the defendants were arrested in March and previously charged with conspiring in a test cheating scheme that involved bribing SAT and ACT administrators.
Additional charges were also brought Tuesday against five university athletic officials who were previously charged in the case, including coaches that have past connections to USC, UCLA, Georgetown, and Wake Forest, authorities said.
Legal experts said Tuesday that prosecutors could be using the additional charges as part of a strategy to pressure the parents to reach plea deals in the sprawling case.
“I think most significantly it provides more things to negotiate about,” said David Siegel, a professor who teaches criminal law, procedure, and evidence at New England Law Boston.
Robert Bloom, a law professor at Boston College, said it appears that the US attorney “is throwing the kitchen sink at these people so as to encourage them to plea, that’s what it seems to me.”
“This is what plea bargaining is all about,” Bloom said. “The prosecutor sometimes overcharges so as to encourage guilty pleas and will drop charges in exchange for guilty pleas.”
Daniel Medwed, a law professor at Northeastern University, said the new charges will probably result in the remaining defendants trying to reach a plea deal in order to avoid a severe punishment after trial.
Loughlin and her spouse are among dozens of wealthy parents charged in the scheme, in which they cut large checks to consultant William “Rick” Singer to have their children falsely designated as athletic recruits at fancy schools, or to pad their children’s SAT and ACT scores, according to prosecutors.
Tuesday’s indictment reiterates a number of prior allegations lodged against Loughlin and Giannulli, namely that in 2016 and 2017 they “agreed with Singer to pay an amount, ultimately totaling $500,000, to facilitate the admission of their two daughters to USC as purported crew recruits.”
In a related development on Tuesday, USC confirmed that Loughlin’s daughters are no longer students at the Los Angeles school.