Actress Lori Loughlin, her husband and 14 other parents ensnared in a massive college entrance scam were hit with additional charges on Tuesday, including a count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, federal officials said.
A new superseding indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges that Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, disguised their bribes to the ringleader of the scam as donations to fund programs for “disadvantaged youth.”
The new charges came a day after federal prosecutors said actress Felicity Huffman and 13 other defendants charged in the probe dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” had agreed to plead guilty.
Loughlin, 54, and Giannulli, 55, have already been indicted on a federal charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, a crime that could get them each a maximum 20-year prison sentence if convicted.
A new superseding indictment charges the couple and the other defendants with conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The indictment says the 16 parents conspired to “conceal their fraud scheme by funneling bribe and other payments through the facade” of the Key Worldwide Foundation, a sham charity established by William “Rick” Singer, who federal prosecutors identified as the ringleader of the nationwide scam.
The purpose of the money laundering scheme was allegedly intended to “conceal and disguise the nature, location, ownership, and control” of bribes paid to Singer by making them appear to be charitable donations to the Key Worldwide Foundation, according to the indictment.
After obtaining the bribes from the parents, officials at Key Worldwide Foundation issued letters “falsely attesting that the purported donation would help ‘provide educational and self-enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth,'” according to the indictment.
Singer, 58, who also owned a college counseling company called Edge College & Career Network, accepted bribes totaling $25 million from parents between 2011 and 2018 “to guarantee their children’s admission to elite schools,” federal prosecutors said.
Singer has already pleaded guilty in a Boston federal court to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice.
Court documents unsealed on March 13 say Loughlin — best known for her role as Aunt Becky on the ABC sitcom “Full House” — and Giannulli “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.”
Federal agents obtained emails from Loughlin and a recorded conversation in which Loughlin and Giannulli implicated themselves in the scam, according to the documents.