Lori Loughlin’s legal problems are getting worse. The former star of When Calls the Heart and her husband Mossimo Giannulli have been hit with additional charges related to their alleged role in the college admissions scandal.
The new indictment comes just one day after four more parents involved in the case pleaded guilty. That has some speculating that the actress, who has pleaded not guilty, may end up changing course and taking a plea deal to avoid a trial.
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of bribing college employees
On October 22, Operation Varsity Blues prosecutors charged 11 parents, including Loughlin and Giannulli, with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, asserting that they bribed “employees of the University of Southern California (USC) to facilitate their children’s admission.”
“In exchange for the bribes, employees of the university allegedly designated the defendants’ children as athletic recruits – with little or no regard for their athletic abilities – or as members of other favored admissions categories,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts.
The couple was previously charged with money laundering and fraud.
The actress faces substantial time in prison
Loughlin was already facing up to 40 years in prison if found guilty on the fraud and money laundering charges. A conviction on the new charge could add up to five years to her sentence.
Andrew Lelling, the U.S. Attorney who is the top prosecutor on the case, said in an interview with Boston’s WCVB that if the case against the Full House star goes to trial the government would seek a tougher sentence than if a plea agreement is reached.
“Let’s say she goes through to trial: If it’s after trial, I think certainly we’d be asking for something substantially higher,” he said. “If she resolved her case short of trial, something a little lower than that.”
Sources told TMZ that prosecutors would be open to a plea deal with the actress to avoid the possibility that she could receive a light sentence if convicted at trial. The 55-year-old actress reportedly regrets not taking a deal when one was offered in the spring.
In April, a legal expert told CNN that the government would use additional charges to ratchet up the pressure on parents and get them to plead guilty.
“The carrot is, ‘Take a quick plea and get your best shot at a lower sentence,’” CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said. “And the stick is, ‘We have additional charges that we’ll bring if you don’t plead by that date.’”
Her daughters are no longer enrolled at USC
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, admitted to USC as crew recruits. However, neither girl was involved in the sport. On Monday, officials at the Los Angeles school confirmed the girls were no longer students at the university.
“Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli are not currently enrolled,” USC said in a statement. “We are unable to provide additional information because of student privacy laws.”
Previously, the school had said that it was conducting a “case-by-case review” of students who were connected to the scheme.
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