Actress Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison on Friday, and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, to five months for their roles in a far-reaching college admissions cheating scandal.
The “Full House” actress told U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton that she’ll “redeem myself” and “use this experience as a catalyst to do good and give back for the rest of my life.”
Loughlin appeared to be reading from a prepared statement when she then wiped her eyes and seemed to speak off script in her final words to the judge.
“Your honor I am truly, profoundly and deeply sorry,” she said. ” I am ready to face the consequences and make amends.”
Loughlin pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud in May after more than a year of her and Giannulli fighting with prosecutors over their part in the larger national scandal dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”
She was sentenced in federal court Friday, hours after her husband’s sentencing, for a plot that helped their daughters gain admission to the University of Southern California.
Giannulli also pleaded guilty in May, to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud in connection with the scheme.
Prosecutors said Giannulli took a much more active role in the scheme – that peddled the daughters as elite crew athletes, worthy of special consideration for admission – and deserved more jail time.
And while Judge Gorton seemed to have sympathy for Loughlin, he questioned why the actress would have made such poor choices.
“Here you are, an admired, successful, professional actor with a long lasting marriage, two apparently healthy, resilient children, more money than you could possible need, a beautiful home in sunny Southern California – a fairy tale life,” Gorton said.
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“Yet you stand me before a convicted felon. Any for what? For the inexplicable desire to grasp even more.”
Gorton had tougher words for Giannulli, scolding the defendant for callously taking advantage of privilege.
“I see lots of drug dealers, gun runners and people who have committed violent crimes who’ve grown up without role models, sometimes being abused themselves,” Gorton said.
“You are not stealing bread to feed your family. You have no excuse for your crime. That makes it all the more blameworthy.”
Giannulli led “the good life in Southern California,” but still committed a crime “motivated by hubris,” according to the judge.
“You are an informed, smart, successful businessman,” Gorton said. “You certainly did know better and yet you helped sponsor a breathtaking fraud on our system of education and involved your wife and your two daughters in cheating and faking their ways into a prestigious university.”
Friday’s sentencing hearing was a virtual one in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
While Judge Gorton was wearing a robe and speaking from his Boston courtroom, prosecutors, the defendants and their lawyers all appeared via computer feeds.
Loughlin and Giannulli were both ordered to report to prison on Nov. 19.
The defense hopes to Giannulli will be sent to a federal lockup in Lompoc, California, which is about 150 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles. Loughlin hopes to land at a facility in Victorville, which is about 90 miles northeast of central L.A.
Judge Gorton said he’d pass on both defense requests to prison officials, who’d have the final say on where Giannulli and Loughlin do their time.
In addition to his prison sentence, Giannulli was ordered Friday to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. Loughlin was hit with $150,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.
Friday’s sentencing comes after federal investigators last year uncovered a network of wealthy parents who paid thousands of dollars to a California man who boosted their children’s chances of gaining entrance into elite colleges.
The scheme was led by William “Rick” Singer, who ran a for-profit college counseling and preparation business. Singer torpedoed the entire operation when he agreed to wear a wire and cooperate with investigators.
A number of other privileged parents were caught up in the scandal, including the “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman.
Huffman served 11 days of a 14-day sentence in October after she admitted to paying for someone to proctor and correct her daughter’s college board test, which resulted in the score jumping 400 points above her PSAT performance to 1420 out of a possible 1600.
In the case of Loughlin and Giannulli, prosecutors alleged that in addition to falsely presenting their daughters to the university as crew team athletes, the parents instructed their younger daughter not to answer any questions from her high school counselor if he asked about her being flagged as a crew recruit.
Giannulli later confronted that counselor “aggressively” and “bluntly stated that (his younger daughter) was a coxswain,” prosecutors alleged in a sentencing memo.
Neither of the daughters has been charged; they are both no longer enrolled in USC.