Olivia Jade and Bella Giannulli Rowing Photos Are 'Not Some Smoking Gun,' Says Lori Loughlin Source
The actress and her family maintain that they were duped into their participation in the college admissions scandal
Last week, federal prosecutors released the rowing photos they claim Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli supplied to get their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, into the University of Southern California. The photos of the girls on a rowing machine sparked a social media sensation as the photos were shared around the world.
But the family was unsurprised that the photos became public, a source close to Loughlin tells PEOPLE.
“They have known that the photos would eventually be released, because they are part of the discovery,” the source says. “They were prepared that they would be released, they just didn’t know when. It didn’t come as surprise.”
Loughlin and Giannulli maintain that they were simply doing the bidding of Rick Singer, the man at the center of the scandal and the founder and CEO of the company The Key: a Private Life Coaching and Counseling Company.
“As damning as it looks, keep in mind that they were following Rick Singer’s instructions, and he was having them do a lot of things that they didn’t understand,” the source maintains.
On March 12, 2019, 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 were 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 Singer to falsely designate their daughters as recruits to the USC crew team, though neither actually participated in the sport.
The release of the photos is in response to Loughlin’s attorneys filing a motion to dismiss her criminal case based on the actress’ claim that the FBI told Singer to lie about Loughlin and Giannulli’s knowledge of bribes being paid.
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Loughlin and Giannulli were also charged in October with one count each of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery in addition to charges of money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud. They have both pled not guilty.
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The source tells PEOPLE that the actress’ legal team is not worried about the photos.”Legally speaking, the photos are not evidence of criminal wrongdoing,” the insider says. “They’re definitely eye-grabbing, but they are not charged with taking photos.”
“They are charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, as well as fraud and money laundering,” the source continues. “The common denominator behind all those is money. And they didn’t realize that the money that they paid was considered a bribe. At Singer’s directive, they were giving money to the school as a donation that they thought was perfectly legal. People donate to colleges and universities all the time.”
“You’ll get no argument from me that they’re not a good look,” the source concludes, “but they’re not some smoking gun that proves the charges against them.”
Loughlin and Giannulli are expected to face trial later this year.