“Full House” star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli allegedly coughed up a combined $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California — by pretending the waif-like girls were crew athletes, prosecutors said Tuesday.
The couple — who are among dozens of people accused of paying bribes to get their kids into top colleges in a sprawling admissions scam — allegedly first agreed to the scheme for their older daughter, Isabella Rose, because they were told her grades were at or just below the “low end” of USC’s admission standards, according to court documents.
“We just met with [our older daughter’s] college counselor this am. I’d like to maybe sit with you after your session with the girls as I have some concerns and want to fully understand the game plan and make sure we have a roadmap for success as it relates to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than ASU!” Mossimo allegedly wrote to William Singer, who is accused of running the scam, in 2016.
The Target t-shirt tycoon then allegedly paid Singer’s front foundation and USC’s senior women’s associate athletic director, Donna Heinel, to have his older daughter recruited as a crew coxswain at the school “even though she did not row competitively or otherwise participate in crew.”
To pull off the alleged scam, Giannulli had to send Singer a photo of Isabella on a rowing machine, court papers alleged.
At a press conference Tuesday, prosecutors said Singer often used bogus photos to make his clients’ kids look like athletes.
“In many instances, Singer helped parents take staged photographs of their children engaged in particular sports,” Massachusetts US Attorney Andrew Lelling said. “Other times, he used stock photos, sometimes Photoshopping the face of the child on the athlete, and submitting it.”
After their older daughter got into USC, Singer then allegedly asked Giannulli and Laughlin if there was “a similar need” for their younger daughter, social media star Olivia Jade, and the parents both agreed.
Singer again falsely presented the petite teen as a coxswain, and had the parents send in an “action picture” of her on a rowing machine, prosecutors claim.
The two sisters’ unlikely athletic recruitment apparently caught the attention of their high school guidance counselor — who started asking questions because the counselor “did not believe that either of the Giannullis’ daughters participated in crew, and was concerned that their applications may have contained misleading information,” the court papers read.
Around that time, Laughlin allegedly sent Singer an email reading: “[Our younger daughter] has not submitted all her colleges [sic] apps and is confused on how to do so. I want to make sure she gets those in as I don’t want to call any attention to [her] with our little friend at [her high school]. Can you tell us how to proceed?”
Singer allegedly had an employee submit the applications on the girl’s behalf.
After she was also accepted to USC in March last year, the high school counselor met with Giannulli and later emailed him saying he had just spoken with a college admissions official and told them “that you had visited this morning and affirmed for me that [your younger daughter] is truly a coxswain.”
Later that day, Heinel allegedly left a voice message for Singer, saying she wanted to make sure that students “if questioned at the school that they respond in a[n] appropriate way that they are, walk-on candidates for their respective sports.”
“So I just don’t want anybody going into … [the Giannullis’ daughter’s high school], you know, yelling at counselors. That’ll shut everything — that’ll shut everything down,” she allegedly said.
Working with law enforcement agents, Singer allegedly later captured both Loughlin and Giannulli on tape acknowledging they’d paid Heinel to get their daughters into the school as crew athletes, even though the sisters don’t actually row.
Heinel has also been indicted on charges of racketeering conspiracy, and is accused of accepting money to get numerous kids into the California college as athletes.
Loughlin and Giannulli are facing charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.