The actress Lori Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, was sentenced in federal court Friday to five months behind bars for his role in the college admissions cheating scandal that a judge labeled “breathtaking fraud.”
Loughlin is also due to be sentenced later Friday afternoon for her role in the scheme to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California by falsely portraying them as elite athletes worthy of special consideration.
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.”
Giannulli also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and honest services wire and mail fraud in connection with the scheme.
U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton for the District of Massachusetts scolded Giannulli, telling the defendant he callously took 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.
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While Judge Gorton was wearing a robe and speaking from his Boston courtroom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Kearney, defense attorney Sean Berkowitz and Giannulli all appeared via computer feeds.
“This is a good man who made terrible mistakes that were criminal and who accepts full responsibility for those mistakes and crimes,” said Berkowitz, who sat shoulder-to-shoulder with his client in an office setting.
Despite the scams to get into USC, Berkowitz insisted the couple’s daughters had strong grades and test scores and were admitted to other colleges “legitimately” without Singer’s criminal help.
“I take full responsibility for my conduct, I’m ready to accept the consequences and move forward with the lessons I’ve learned from this experience,” Giannulli said in his brief statement to the judge.
Before Berkowitz and Giannulli spoke, Kearney said the defendant showed a “privileged” and “entitled” attitude that rightly should land him before bars.
“This disrespect for right and wrong deserves a meaningful sentence of imprisonment,” Kearney said. “This kind of behavior is not simply overzealous parenting.”
Giannulli was 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.
Judge Gorton said he’d pass on the defense request to prison officials, who’d have the final say on where Giannulli does his time.
In addition to his prison sentence, Giannulli was ordered Friday to pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 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.
The memo recommended two months of prison, $150,000 fine and 100 hours of community service for Loughlin.
Neither of the daughters has been charged; they are both no longer enrolled in USC.
This is a developing story, please refresh here for updates.