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Lori Loughlin, husband to plead guilty in college admissions fraud

In this April 3, 2019 photo, actress Lori Loughlin, front, and her husband, clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, left, depart federal court in Boston after a hearing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. On Thursday, May 21, 2020, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston said Loughlin and Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to charges of trying to secure the fraudulent admission of their two children to the University of Southern California as purported athletic recruits. (Steven Senne / AP)
In this April 3, 2019 photo, actress Lori Loughlin, front, and her husband, clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, left, depart federal court in Boston after a hearing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. On Thursday, May 21, 2020, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston said Loughlin and Giannulli have agreed to plead guilty to charges of trying to secure the fraudulent admission of their two children to the University of Southern California as purported athletic recruits. (Steven Senne / AP)
By Patricia Hurtado and Janelle Lawrence Bloomberg

Actor Lori Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, abandoned a 15-month fight in the U.S. college admissions scandal and agreed to plead guilty, according to court papers filed in Boston.

Loughlin agreed to serve two months in prison, and Giannulli five months, for paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as recruits to the crewing team, though the daughters did not row. They will plead guilty to fraud conspiracy charges. The U.S. agreed to drop charges of federal programs bribery and money laundering.

Since the charges were announced in March 2019, the couple’s lawyers have fiercely challenged the government’s case on several grounds, questioning why it was brought by prosecutors in Massachusetts and why their clients were charged along with dozens of other parents they argued had no connection to them. Earlier this month they lost a bid to have the charges dropped because of alleged “outrageous government misconduct,” claiming prosecutors withheld evidence.

Nonetheless, Loughlin got credit for her “prompt acceptance of responsibility,” according to court filings.

The couple’s plea agreements, unlike others in the sprawling case, allow them to argue for lighter sentences than the government requests. The two reserved the right to claim ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecutorial misconduct if they decide to raise a challenge later, according to the agreements — a highly unusual provision.

The couple, and others still fighting the charges, had argued that federal agents investigating the case prompted Rick Singer, the scheme’s admitted mastermind, to lie to parents in order to fabricate evidence against them. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton rejected that argument as well as their bid to suppress phone conversations with parents that Singer secretly recorded in cooperating with the government’s investigation of the racket.

“Under the plea agreements filed today, these defendants will serve prison terms reflecting their respective roles in a conspiracy to corrupt the college admissions process and which are consistent with prior sentences in this case,” Andrew Lelling, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement. “We will continue to pursue accountability for undermining the integrity of college admissions.”

More than 50 parents, test administrators, athletic coaches and others have been charged in the case, the biggest college admissions scam the U.S. has ever prosecuted. Of the 36 parents charged, 22 have pleaded guilty. None of the students or schools, from USC to Georgetown to Yale, were charged.

Loughlin and Giannulli’s plea hearing was set for Friday.

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