Lori Loughlin Was 'Fixated on Getting Her Girls into USC,' Source Says: 'It Was a Status Thing'

"It was very important for her to be able to say that her girls were at USC. It was absolutely a status thing," a family friend of Lori Loughlin tells PEOPLE

When Lori Loughlin‘s daughters Olivia Jade, 19, and Isabella Rose, 20, applied to college, the Full House star was determined they attend the University of Southern California, a Loughlin family source tells PEOPLE.

“Lori is used to getting what she wants,” says the family source. “This is why she got in trouble in the first place. She got fixated on getting her girls into USC.”

Loughlin and her fashion mogul husband Mossimo Giannulli now face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each charge in a college admissions scandal that has captured national fascination.

Olivia Jade x Sephora Collection Launch
From left: Olivia Jade Giannulli, Lori Loughlin and Isabella Rose Giannulli. Gabriel Olsen/Getty

“For her, there was no other way,” says the family source. “They needed to be at USC. It was very important for her to be able to say that her girls were at USC.”

For Loughlin, 54, “it was absolutely a status thing” for her daughters to attend the elite Los Angeles university, where the admission rate was 13 percent in March 2018, the family source says. “And the fact that she wanted the girls to have things that she never had growing up.”

Calls to attorneys for Loughlin and Giannulli were not returned.

Loughlin was born in Queens, grew up in Hauppage, Long Island, and has fond memories from her simple childhood. “I grew up in a great neighborhood and I remember that you just walked out the front door and you had a ton of friends to hang out and play with. It was so different from how my kids are raised, with scheduled play dates and destinations. … It was great. I really have nothing but really good memories of growing up in Hauppauge,” she told Newsday in 2015.

She began modeling as a preteen before she landed commercials and eventually booked TV work, according to her interview with Dear Doctor. She never attended college.

On March 12, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts announced the initial charges against 50 people in the admissions scandal, including Loughlin and Giannulli, who became a multimillionaire by founding the clothing company Mossimo, now owned by Iconix Brand Group. The couple allegedly spent $500,000 to have Olivia Jade, who has made a name for herself as a social media star, and Isabella Rose, an aspiring actress, designated crew team recruits for USC, even though they had never rowed, the indictment alleges.

Prosecutors say the pair paid the money 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 has since admitted his role as the ringleader of the scam and has pleaded guilty to multiple charges.

PrettyLittleThing for Kourtney Kardashian Launch Party - Los Angeles
Splash News Online

In the wake of the scandal, Loughlin, Giannulli, 55, and their daughters are grappling with a painful new reality.

“Lori always had a very special relationship with both daughters. She is a great mom and very involved,” says the family source. “Olivia seems more independent than Bella though. And Olivia absolutely has had more to lose with the USC scandal.” Olivia Jade hasn’t returned to USC, a source previously shared, and has already lost a lucrative partnership with cosmetics giant Sephora.

“Lori likes things to be perfect though. Any kind of conflict was always hard for her. But Olivia has lost a lot,” adds the family source.

Still, another insider close to the situation tells PEOPLE that “a lot of this information is false.”

On Tuesday, things got worse for Loughlin and Giannulli, who were each hit with money laundering charges. They now face up to 20 years in prison for each charge. Currently, Loughlin and Giannulli have not entered pleas in their case.

“They were offered the carrot and the stick,” a source previously told PEOPLE. “The carrot was that this can all go away and you can serve your time and put it behind you. Remember, they were facing 20 years, even before the latest charges. The stick was that [the prosecution] would and could pile on more serious charges.”

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli in 2012.

Now, Loughlin and Giannulli are trying to figure out their next move, the source said.

“They decided to roll the dice,” the source shared, “and it may have been a bad gamble. Now they’re in worse shape than before.”

Another source close to the pair previously told PEOPLE that they have resisted any agreements that would result in jail time. Under federal guidelines, both of them would have gotten between 18-24 months in jail under a plea agreement that they rejected.

“They weren’t ready to accept that,” said the source, who is familiar with the legal discussions in the case. “They’re really not seeing how serious this is.”

Related Articles