Lori Loughlin pleads guilty to charges in college admissions scandal

Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli agreed Thursday to plead guilty to conspiracy charges in the nation's college admissions scandal after maintaining their innocence for more than a year.

The celebrity couple will each plead guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud as part of separate plea agreements with federal prosecutors.

Loughlin and Giannulli were accused last year of paying $500,000 to the mastermind of an elaborate admissions scheme, Rick Singer, to get their two daughters accepted into the University of Southern California as fake crew recruits.

They will now become the 33rd and 34th defendants to plead guilty out of 53 charged in the sprawling "Varsity Blues" scandal that also includes actress Felicity Huffman. 

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Lori Loughlin pleads guilty to charges in college admissions scandal

Loughlin, 55, former star of the television series "Full House," would serve two months in prison, pay a fine of $150,000, serve two years of supervised release and undertake 100 hours of community service if accepted by a federal judge.

Giannulli, 56, would serve five months in prison, pay a $250,000 fine and have two years of supervised release with 250 hours of community service. 

 The plea hearing for the celebrity couple is set before U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton via video conference to Boston federal court amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the plea agreement, neither Loughlin nor Giannulli would plead guilty to bribery and money laundering charges, which could have brought them lengthier prison terms.

Loughlin and Giannulli were among a group of parents set to be the first to go to trial in the admissions case in October. But their guilty pleas leaves just 12 parents still fighting charges in the case.

More: Judge calls alleged investigator misconduct in Lori Loughlin case 'serious and disturbing'

Attorneys for the couple had mounted a vigorous defense seeking dismissal of the case, arguing Loughlin and Giannulli believed they were making "legitimate donations" to USC, not bribing college officials. 

They also pointed to notes that Singer, a college consultant from Newport Beach, California, made on his iPhone after discussions had had with FBI investigators on Oct. 2, 2018 about recorded phone calls they directed him to make to parents who were his clients.

Singer was cooperating with the FBI. He wrote that agents told him to lie and get his clients to restate they were making bribes to college officials – counter to what he claimed he actually told them before they paid him to get their children into college.

Gorton wrote in April that Singer's allegations were "serious and disturbing," but he did not rule whether to dismiss the case.

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

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