Actor Lori Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, have agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges for trying to fraudulently win their children’s admission to the University of Southern California, the US Department of Justice said on Thursday.
Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, are among 53 people charged with involvement in a scheme where wealthy parents conspired with a California admissions consultant to use bribery and other fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.
It is the biggest college admissions scam ever prosecuted in the US, and sparked national outrage when it was uncovered last year.
US college admissions scandal: how did the scheme work and who was charged?
The justice department said Loughlin agreed to serve two months in prison and Giannulli agreed to serve five months in prison under their respective plea agreements filed in federal court in Boston.
They are expected to plead guilty on Friday to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Loughlin and Giannulli also agreed to pay fines of $150,000 and $250,000, respectively.
US attorney Andrew Lelling in a statement said the plea deals ensure “these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process”. Their lawyers declined to comment.
The consultant, William “Rick” Singer, pleaded guilty last year to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and using bribery to secure the admission of parents’ children to schools as fake athletic recruits.
Prosecutors allege Loughlin and Giannulli agreed with Singer to pay $500,000 in bribes to have their two daughters named as fake University of Southern California rowing team recruits.
The couple had been scheduled to face trial in October alongside other parents. Their lawyers previously contended they believed their money was being used for university donations.
By Friday, 24 of the 36 parents charged will have pleaded guilty, including the Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, who received a 14-day prison sentence. The other parents included CEOs, securities and real estate traders, and the co-chairman of a global law firm.
The longest sentence a parent has received was the nine-month term imposed on Douglas Hodge, the former chief executive of the investment firm Pimco.
Authorities said the admissions scam had been going on since 2011. Two hundred FBI agents were involved in the investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues.
The colleges where admissions were sought included Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, the University of Southern California, the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Texas.
“These parents are a catalogue of wealth and privilege,” Lelling said when the scam was made public last year. “All of them knowingly conspired with Singer and others to … buy their children’s admission to elite schools through fraud.”
Reuters contributed to this report
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