Lori Loughlin and her husband are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to falsely designate their daughters as recruits to the USC crew team

By Steve Helling
April 15, 2019 11:52 AM

Lori Loughlin and her husband J. Mossimo Giannulli have pleaded not guilty in the high-profile college admissions cheating scandal, PEOPLE confirms.

A legal source close to the couple tells PEOPLE the couple pleaded not guilty to both charges they face: mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison for each charge.

The couple was previously offered a plea agreement, but ultimately decided to reject the deal because they didn’t want to spend time in jail, the source told PEOPLE last week.

On March 12, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts announced that it had charged 50 people, including Loughlin and fellow actress Felicity Huffman, in the cheating scandal. The two actresses, along with coaches, admissions counselors and parents were accused of such alleged crimes as falsifying SAT scores and lying about the athletic skills of their children.

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RELATED: Felicity Huffman, William H. Macy Make Courthouse Return After Her College Admissions Scandal Arrest

Huffman paid $15,000 to admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer and his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation (“KWF”), which prosecutors said was actually a front for accepting bribes. Singer then allegedly facilitated cheating on Huffman’s daughter’s SAT test by having a proctor correct the teen’s answers after the fact.

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Huffman has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, saying, “I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done, I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.”

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Loughlin, meanwhile, allegedly wanted her daughters to get into the University of Southern California so badly that she and Giannulli paid approximately $500,000 in bribes to falsely designate their daughters as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew.

RELATED: Why William H. Macy, Felicity Huffman’s Husband, Was Not Charged in College Cheating Scandal

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Loughlin and Ginnulli have hired a team of high-profile attorneys to represent them in the case.

“They decided to roll the dice,” the legal source told PEOPLE last week about their decision to reject the plea deal, “and it may have been a bad gamble. Now they’re in worse shape than before.”

“[The prosecutors] are saying that the only way anyone’s going to escape jail time is if they go to trial and are found not guilty,” the source told PEOPLE. “But they’re saying the they have such meticulous evidence that it would be foolish to take that risk.”

Reps for Loughlin and Giannulli have not returned PEOPLE’s calls for comment.

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