Lori Loughlin and her husband allegedly "conspired to commit federal program bribery," prosecutors say
According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Loughlin, Giannulli and nine other defendants “conspired to commit federal program bribery by bribing employees of the University of Southern California (USC) to facilitate their children’s admission.” They have been charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery.
Federal programs bribery is defined as theft or bribery of an organization that receives more than 10,000 in federal funds. According to the U.S. Penal Code, the charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.
Prior to the new charges, Loughlin and Giannulli each already faced charges of money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud. They previously faced up to 40 years in prison.
On March 12, the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts indicted Loughlin and Giannulli in the shocking nationwide scam as part of an investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. Nearly 50 other parents, coaches, exam proctors and admissions counselors are accused of actions such as paying for boosted SAT scores and lying about students’ athletic skills in order to gain them acceptance to elite colleges including Yale, Georgetown, USC and Stanford.
Loughlin and Giannulli allegedly paid $500,000 to admissions consultant William Singer to falsely designate daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli, 19, and Isabella Rose Giannulli, 20, as recruits to the USC crew team, though neither actually participated in the sport.
Currently, Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, are awaiting their trial after pleading not guilty. It is unclear when they will enter a plea to the latest charge.
In a statement to PEOPLE on Monday, the USC Registrar confirmed that “Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli are not currently enrolled.”
“We are unable to provide additional information because of student privacy laws,” the USC Registrar added.
Fellow actress Felicity Huffman pleaded guilty in May to mail fraud and honest services fraud, and was sentenced to 14 days in jail. Additionally, a judge fined the Desperate Housewives actress $30,000 and said she would be on supervised release for one year. She will also have to do 250 hours of community service.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lellling says that the new charges have a goal of achieving justice.
“Today’s charges are the result of ongoing investigation in the nationwide college admissions case,” Lelling says. “Our goal from the beginning has been to hold the defendants fully accountable for corrupting the college admissions process through cheating, bribery and fraud. The superseding indictments will further that effort.”
Shortly before the new charges were filed, a source close to Loughlin told PEOPLE that she is standing strong in her belief that she is innocent.
“Lori has been adamant this whole time that she isn’t doing any prison time. This is why she didn’t accept a plea deal,” says the source, adding that the actress is “focused” on spending time with her family and working on her court case. “There hasn’t been any talk about accepting a plea deal since she rejected the first one. She plans to go to trial.”