Actress Lori Loughlin to plead guilty in college admissions scandal

New York (AFP) –


American actress Lori Loughlin is set to plead guilty and accept prison time over her role in a sprawling college admissions scandal, US prosecutors said Thursday.

The star of the 1980s-90s sitcom "Full House" along with her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among 50 people indicted in an elaborate scam to secure spots for privileged children at prestigious US universities.

They are both set to plead guilty to fraud Friday at 11:30 am local time before a Massachusetts federal judge, according to the court docket.

Prosecutors in the northeastern state had said the pair paid $500,000 to gain admission for their two daughters at the University of Southern California as recruits to the crew team -- a sport neither had ever trained in.

The terms of the plea agreement would see Loughlin serve two months in prison, with a $150,000 fine and two years of supervised release, and 100 hours of community service.

Her husband's recommended sentence is slightly stiffer: Giannulli's agreement would involve five months of prison, a $250,000 fine and two years of supervised release with 250 hours of community service.

Both sentences are subject to court approval.

Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, previously had denied charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering, bribery and transfer funds.

Those charges could carry penalties of up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

The pair are set to become the 23rd and 24th parents to plead guilty in the case, according to a statement from the US Justice Department.

"Under the plea agreements filed today, these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process and which are consistent with prior sentences in this case," said US Attorney Andrew Lelling.

- Previous claims on innocence -

The ringleader behind the college admissions scam, William "Rick" Singer, who authorities say was paid about $25 million to bribe coaches and university administrators, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities.

For more than a year Loughlin and Giannulli had insisted on their innocence, saying that Singer led them to believe the funds were not for bribes but a donation of sorts to the university.

If US Judge Nathaniel Gorton accepts the terms of their plea agreements, prosecutors will drop the money laundering and bribery charges against them.

Actress Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives" fame was released last October from prison, after serving 11 days of a two-week sentence at a low-security California facility for her role in the scam.

She had pleaded guilty during a tearful court appearance to paying $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT college entrance exam score.

Other universities targeted in the scam include Stanford, Yale, Georgetown and UCLA. None of the schools or the students have been charged in the case.

One of Loughlin's daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli, an influencer on YouTube and Instagram, had faced harsh criticism online when the scandal broke but in recent months has been working to rebuild her brand.

For Mother's Day earlier this month she posted a picture of Loughlin as a young mom, writing: "You are my best friend and have held my hand every day for 20 years."

"You are one of a kind."