A source close to the actress claims that she did not understand that her alleged actions were illegal

By Steve Helling
December 18, 2019 08:00 AM
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Lori Loughlin believes that she was tricked by the mastermind of the college admissions scandal, and that she will eventually be found not guilty of the charges against her, a source close to the actress tells PEOPLE.

In court documents filed last Friday, attorney Sean Berkowitz, who represents Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, claims evidence that could be used to strengthen their case is being withheld by prosecution because it was deemed irrelevant and immaterial.

By sharing FBI interview statements from William “Rick” Singer, the man at the center of the scandal, the celebrity couple’s defense team hopes to show that Loughlin, 55, and Giannulli, 56, didn’t know their donations would be used as bribes. The motion asserts that not sharing the evidence prevents a fair trial.

“The Government appears to be concealing exculpatory evidence that helps show that both Defendants believed all of the payments they made would go to USC itself — for legitimate, university-approved purposes — or to other legitimate charitable causes,” read the motion, which was filed at Massachusetts’ U.S. District Court.

The source explains that the Fuller House star did not fully understand her alleged actions.

“Lori was hoodwinked by Rick Singer,” the source says. “There’s no other way to put it. She was convinced that she was making a donation, just like parents have been doing for years.”

“She did not have any intent to do something illegal, and in fact she thought she was doing the right thing,” the source continues. “That’s why she hasn’t pleaded guilty; frankly, she believes that she is innocent and that the evidence shown in court will prove that. Unfortunately, it seems as though the prosecution is hell-bent on making examples out of people, and not playing fair.”

The United States Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts declined to comment.

Lori Loughlin
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Loughlin and her fashion designer husband allegedly paid $500,000 to admissions consultant Singer (and his nonprofit organization, Key Worldwide Foundation, or “KWF”) to falsely designate daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli, 20, and Isabella Rose Giannulli, 21, as recruits to the University of Southern California crew team, though neither actually participated in the sport.

The source close to Loughlin declined to address the allegations that she had staged photos that falsely depicted her daughters using crew equipment.

In addition to charges of money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, Loughlin and Giannulli were handed an additional federal charge in October: one count each of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery. They have pleaded not guilty.

The defense team, in the court documents, says it’s key to the case how the parents were told their monetary donations were to be spent. In releasing the Singer statements, they think it can show that Loughlin wasn’t aware the money would be used for bribery.

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli
Splash News Online

“As noted, in making their case to the jury, Giannulli and Loughlin intend to present evidence that they reasonably believed KWF was a bona fide charitable organization, and that their payments to KWF would support programs geared toward helping underprivileged children,” reads the filing.

The source previously told PEOPLE that Loughlin believes she has a “valid defense.”

“Lori in particular has become extremely well-versed in the case,” the source said at the time. “She’s an active participant in her own defense.”

The source added: “She feels like she’s got a valid defense, and that when all the evidence comes out, that she won’t be found guilty. She still is looking into the avenues to defend herself against what she thinks is a meritless charge.”