Actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded not guilty on Monday relating to fraud and conspiracy charges brought against them by federal prosecutors in the Operation Varsity Blues investigation. Loughlin and Giannulli were two of 33 parents charged in the largest college admissions scandal in American history.
According to documents obtained by CBS News, Loughlin and Giannulli each waived their right to appear in court for an arraignment and pleaded not guilty to each of the charges brought against them.
Loughlin and Giannull allegedly paid $500,000 to have their two daughters categorized as recruits to the USC crew team even though neither participated in the sport. Their 19-year-old daughter, Olivia Jade, is a social media influencer, who apparently capitalized on her experience at USC with sponsored posts.
Loughlin and Giannulli were arrested last month on a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. An indictment brought last week added a charge of money laundering conspiracy against the couple and 14 other parents. Loughlin posted a $1 million bond last month.
Loughlin and Giannulli’s decision to plead not guilty is a calculated gamble, as it carries the risk of significantly more time in prison if they are found guilty. Fourteen other parents and administrators involved in the college admissions scandal, including actress Felicity Huffman and lawyer Gordon Caplan, have pleaded guilty in hopes of securing more lenient sentences.
Either way, CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman told “CBS This Morning” last month that any of the parents involved in the scandal could be facing “serious time” in prison.
“We’re dealing with mail fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit these crimes. And what you have here are two schemes. You have the cheating that is the test taking or the paying for others to take the tests, the scoring of the tests. And then you have the one that’s really complicated which is showing that your children are athletes when they’re not so that they get in as they put it through a side door,” Klieman said. “People are so angry all over the country about this case. So the parents need to be punished severely in order for there to be deterrents.”