The mastermind of the college admissions cheating scam allegedly told Lori Loughlin and her husband that their daughter should look “like a real athlete” when she posed for a photo as a phony crew recruit in an effort to sneak into the so-called side door at the University of Southern California.
That was one of the eye-catching anecdotes in Tuesday’s indictment handed up in US District Court in Boston against Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin; her fashion designer spouse, Mossimo Giannulli; and nine other defendants embroiled in the college admissions cheating scandal.
Loughlin and Giannulli are now charged with two counts each of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, three counts each of money laundering conspiracy, and one count each of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail fraud.
They’ve previously pleaded not guilty to some charges following earlier indictments and are expected to enter pleas to the new counts at a later date.
They’re among dozens of defendants charged in the scheme, in which wealthy parents allegedly cut checks to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer to have their children falsely designated as athletic recruits at elite schools, or to falsely boost the children’s SAT and ACT scores.
Singer ultimately cooperated with investigators and secretly recorded his dealings with many parents, including Loughlin. He has admitted to running the show and awaits sentencing. Prosecutors say he funneled some of the cash he collected to corrupt coaches, college officials, and test proctors.
According to court records, Loughlin and Giannulli paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their two daughters into USC as fake crew recruits.
Here’s some advice Singer allegedly gave Loughlin and Giannulli when they were putting together a bogus athletic profile for their older daughter, according to the indictments:
“On or about August 18, 2016, Singer sent an e-mail to Giannulli and Loughlin stating that he needed a copy of their older daughter’s transcript and test scores ‘very soon while I create a coxswain portfolio for her. It would probably help to get a picture of her on an ERG in workout clothes like a real athlete too.’ Giannulli replied: ‘Fantastic. Will get all.’ ”
The fashion designer was allegedly true to his word.
“On or about September 7, 2016, Giannulli sent Singer an e-mail attaching a photograph of his older daughter on an ergometer,” Tuesday’s indictment said. “On or about October 27, 2016, [former USC employee Donna] Heinel presented the Giannullis’ older daughter to the [USC] subcommittee for athletic admissions, and — based on falsified athletic credentials — obtained the subcommittee’s approval to admit her to USC as a crew recruit.”
Heinel has also been charged in connection with the scheme; her case is pending.
When Singer told Giannulli to send $50,000 to Heinel, the designer allegedly put his staff on it.
That wasn’t the only payment the couple was on the hook for: After their older daughter got accepted, Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly had to send $200,000 to Singer’s sham charity, which he used to disguise parents’ bribes as purported donations for underprivileged youth.
“On or about March 30, 2017, Singer’s accountant e-mailed a $200,000 invoice to Giannulli and Loughlin,” the indictment said. “The invoice thanked Giannulli and Loughlin for their pledge to [the charity] and further stated that their ‘private contribution’ of $200,000 was now due.”
But there was a slight delay, since the couple was on vacation.
“On or about April 2, 2017, in response to the e-mail attaching the $200,000 invoice, Giannulli e-mailed Singer’s accountant and Loughlin: ‘We are currently on holiday in the Bahamas but will gladly handle this when home next week.’ ”
The couple also allegedly participated in the scheme with their younger daughter, who like her sister was allegedly accepted to USC on the strength of her bogus crew skills.
In October 2018, the indictment said, Singer called Giannulli and, while secretly recording their chat for federal agents, described the alleged fabrications that helped the daughters gain entry to the university.
“Singer called Giannulli from Boston, Massachusetts,” the indictment said. “During that call, Singer told Giannulli: ‘Donna called me couple weeks ago and says, “Hey, uh,” you know, “going forward, can you use the same format you used for [the Giannullis’ older daughter] and [their younger daughter], and the regattas that you put in there, for any girls, going forward, that don’t row crew?” So it’s funny how— I thought I was just makin’ stuff up.’ Giannulli replied: ‘Uh, right.’ ”
Singer later had a similar phone call with Loughlin.
“During the call, Singer said, in sum and substance, that [his charity] was being audited by the IRS,” the indictment said. “Singer added: ‘So I just want to make sure that you know that, one, that you’re probably going to get a call and that I have not told them anything about the girls going through the side door, through crew, even though they didn’t do crew to get into USC. So I — that is — all I told them was that you guys made a donation to our foundation to help underserved kids.’ Loughlin replied, ‘Um-hmm.’ ”
On Tuesday, USC confirmed Loughlin’s daughters are no longer students at the school.