Federal prosecutors recommended Monday that Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, a celebrity couple snared in the unraveling of a widespread defrauding of the college admissions process, be sentenced to two and five months, respectively, in prison.
The request was in line with a deal the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston reached with Loughlin and Giannulli in May. They each pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud, admitting they passed off their two daughters as promising rowers and slipped them into USC with a corrupt administrator’s blessing, and in exchange, prosecutors said they would request prison sentences of two months for Loughlin and five months for Giannulli.
The judge overseeing the case, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton, isn’t bound by the prosecution’s recommendation and can hand down a punishment above or beneath it. The couple are scheduled to be sentenced Friday. As of Monday afternoon, their attorneys had yet to file sentencing papers of their own.
Justin D. O’Connell, an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston, wrote in a memo that Giannulli, who works as a fashion designer, deserves a heavier sentence than his wife.
As “the more active participant in the scheme,” Giannulli communicated regularly with William “Rick” Singer, a Newport Beach consultant and the fraud’s ringleader, O’Connell wrote. He took photographs of his daughters posing on rowing equipment that were used in bogus recruiting profiles, made payments to Singer and a USC account that greased their admission, and confronted a counselor at their daughters’ high school who was skeptical of the girls’ athletic prowess, O’Connell wrote.
He singled out Giannulli’s “steamrolling an honest high school counselor who tried to do the right thing” in urging Gorton to incarcerate the designer. Loughlin, a famous television actress, was less active in the mechanics of the fraud but “nonetheless fully complicit,” O’Connell wrote.
In his memo, O’Connell related an exchange that hasn’t previously been reported: After the couple’s younger daughter secured admission to USC in late 2017 as a purported rower, she spoke with her parents about “how to avoid the possibility that a high school counselor would disrupt their scheme,” the prosecutor wrote. Listing USC as her top choice “might be a flag for the weasel to meddle,” Loughlin remarked, according to the memo. Giannulli called him a “nosey bastard,” with an added expletive, the memo said.
Their concern was warranted. Notified the Giannullis’ daughter had been flagged as an athletic recruit, the counselor told USC he “highly doubted she was involved in crew,” prompting a confrontation with Giannulli, the memo said. Prosecutors had previously filed the counselor’s notes of the encounter in court.
Giannulli showed up unannounced at the high school, insisted his daughter was a rower, and demanded to know “why I was trying to ruin or get in the way of their opportunities,” the counselor wrote.
Later that day, a USC administrator now charged with endorsing the girl’s admission in exchange for a bribe left Singer a voicemail, according to court records.
“I don’t want the — the parents getting angry and creating any type of disturbance at the school,” the administrator, Donna Heinel, said, according to a transcript filed in court. Parents couldn’t wander onto high school campuses, “yelling at counselors,” she told Singer. “That’ll shut everything — that’ll shut everything down.”
Heinel, who was fired by USC after her arrest last March, has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit racketeering, fraud and bribery. Singer has pleaded guilty to four felonies and cooperated extensively with federal authorities. He has yet to be sentenced.