Lori Loughlin and her husband are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud
According to federal prosecutors, Former Full House star Lori Loughlin allegedly wanted her daughters to get into the University of Southern California so badly that she and her fashion designer husband paid $500,000 in bribes to designate their daughters as recruits on the crew team — even though they don’t even row.
Loughlin, 54, and her husband, J. Mossimo Giannulli, are among the 50 wealthy defendants including Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman who have been indicted in a sweeping college admissions bribery case, federal prosecutors announced Tuesday.
Loughlin and Giannulli are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Unsealed in federal court in Boston Tuesday, the 204-page criminal complaint alleges that Loughlin — best known for her role as Aunt Becky on the hit ABC sitcom Full House — and her husband “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
The complaint 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.
Starting on April 22, 2016, Giannulli emails an unnamed cooperating witness and copies Loughlin saying that he and his wife had just met with their oldest daughter’s college counselor and that he wanted 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]!”
On July 24, 2016, the corroborating 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.
Several months later, in 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 corroborating 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.”
Heinel presented the Giannullis’s younger daughter to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions on or about November 2, 2017, when a subcommittee approved her conditional admission to USC, the document states.
After the daughter’s admission, Loughlin allegedly emailed the corroborating witness: “This is wonderful news,” and used a high-five emoji.
In December of 2017, the guidance counselor at the younger daughter’s high school questioned her being recruited for crew at USC like her older sister, when she didn’t row, which Giannulli allegedly fraudulently confirmed for the counselor the following April, according to the complaint.
Reps for Huffman and Loughlin did not immediately return calls by PEOPLE for comment.
Just 18 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduates get into the University of Southern California, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
A statement to PEOPLE from USC stated the Los Angeles school had not been “accused of any wrongdoing and will continue to cooperate fully with the government’s investigation. The school is now conducting their own internal investigation and reviewing their admissions process.