The actress faces felony charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud

By Steve Helling
April 03, 2019 12:47 PM
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Ed. Note: On Wednesday, Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman will appear in a Boston courtroom Wednesday to face a judge for their alleged involvement in the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal.

In their preliminary hearings, the court will read the charges to the two actresses. It is unclear whether they will enter pleas. Both women face felony charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after being arrested in March.

Both could face prison time, but a legal expert previously told PEOPLE this is unlikely.

Ahead of her court appearances, here is PEOPLE’s March 14 story about the allegations Loughlin faces.

Living in Los Angeles, Lori Loughlin and husband J. Mossimo Giannulli wanted their daughters to attend the University of Southern California.

But despite the family’s wealth — Giannulli founded the Mossimo clothing brand — admission would not be easy. With just a 17.7% acceptance rate, USC is one of the most exclusive colleges in America.

According to federal prosecutors, the 54-year-old Full House star allegedly hatched an elaborate plan: She and her fashion designer husband would allegedly pay exorbitant bribes to designate their daughters as recruits on the crew team — even though they don’t even row.

A 204-page criminal complaint unsealed in federal court in Boston Tuesday, alleges that Loughlin and her husband had her daughters pose as coxswains for a local crew team and on rowing machines, adding that federal agents obtained emails from Loughlin and her husband allegedly implicating them in the scam. The couple allegedly paid $500,000.

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According to the complaint, Giannulli emailed an unnamed cooperating witness on April 22, 2016: “We just met with [our older daughter’s] college counselor this am,” he allegedly wrote. “I’d like to maybe sit with you after your session with the girls as I have some concerns and want to fully understand the game plan and make sure we have a roadmap for success as it relates to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than [Arizona State University]!”

(Note: The cooperating witness has since been identified as William “Rick” Singer, who pleaded guilty to several charges and admitted to devising the scam.)

Loughlin was allegedly copied on the email.

On July 24, 2016, the cooperating witness emailed Giannulli essentially saying his oldest daughter was unlikely to get into USC on academics alone.

“Thereafter, the Giannullis agreed with [the witness] to use bribes to facilitate her admission to USC as a recruited crew coxswain, even though she did not row competitively or otherwise participate in crew,” the complaint alleges.

That September, Giannulli sent the witness an email of his oldest daughter on a rowing machine a month before Donnal Heinel, the senior associate athletic director at USC, allegedly presented the teen as a recruit to the crew team. (The Los Angeles Times reports Heinel has been fired.)

Several months later, in March 2017, USC mailed the oldest daughter her formal acceptance letter, the complaint states.

Later, when the witness asked if they would allegedly need help with their daughter, Loughlin added, “Yes USC for [our younger daughter]!”

The complaint alleges that the cooperating witness devised a plan to “present their younger daughter, falsely, as a crew coxswain for the L.A. Marina Club team, and requested that the Giannullis’s send an ‘Action Picture,’ asking a few days later for a picture on the ‘erg’ — or rowing machine, which Giannulli did a few days later.”

In November 2017, the couple’s youngest daughter was admitted to USC. “This is wonderful news,” Loughlin allegedly wrote. The cooperating witness replied, “Please continue to keep hush hush till March.” Loughlin allegedly responded, “Yes, of course.”

According to ABC, the actress, 54, was arrested in Los Angeles after an overnight flight from Canada, where she had reportedly been filming. Loughlin, who faces a felony charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, is free on $1 million bond.

Loughlin has hired attorney Perry Viscounty, according to The Blast. Viscounty did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment. She has not yet entered a plea.

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Federal court records unsealed Tuesday in Boston name 50 people who have been allegedly indicted as part of the nationwide scheme, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts.

Actress Felicity Huffman allegedly gave $15,000 “to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her oldest daughter,” the indictment in the case states.

“Dozens of individuals involved in a nationwide conspiracy that facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and the admission of students to elite universities as purported athletic recruits were arrested by federal agents in multiple states and charged in documents unsealed on March 12, 2019, in federal court in Boston,” the release says.