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Lori Loughlin Agrees To Plead Guilty And Serve Two Months In Prison

May 21, 2020
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news now. The college admissions scandal revealed last year has produced plea bargains. The actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, a prominent fashion designer, have agreed to plead guilty, we're told. Kirk Carapezza has been covering this story. He is a correspondent in our member station WGBH. Good morning.

KIRK CARAPEZZA, BYLINE: Hey, good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What did the couple do?

CARAPEZZA: Well, the couple is charged with conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud. Court documents show the couple has now agreed to admit that they funneled $500,000 through a bogus charity to get their two daughters fraudulently admitted to USC as fake crew recruits, even though their daughters didn't row or played the sport competitively.

INSKEEP: So they agreed to this accusation or they've accepted this accusation that they funneled money to a bogus charity. Where did it go out of the bogus charity? Did it end up at the university or in somebody's hands? Who got it?

CARAPEZZA: Well, it was funneled through this charity set up by the mastermind of the operation, Rick Singer. And it was used to - prosecutors allege that it was used to bribe coaches to get their - to get kids admitted as fake recruits.

INSKEEP: Gotcha.

CARAPEZZA: Initially, this couple had said that - indicated that they were going to fight these charges and make the case that these were donations and not bribes. But under this plea agreement, Loughlin has agreed to serve two months in prison. Giannulli has agreed to serve five months in prison. And, combined, they'll now pay a fine of more than $400,000.

INSKEEP: The phone line is not ideal, so I'm just going to repeat. You said she agreed to two months in prison. He agreed to five months in prison. Is that correct?

CARAPEZZA: Yes, that's right. Loughlin - under the plea agreement, Loughlin has agreed to serve two months in prison and Giannulli, five months. And they've agreed to pay a fine totaling more than $400,000.

INSKEEP: Can you put this in the wider context of this scandal? Lori Loughlin, of course, was one of several prominent people who were caught up in this. And there were a bunch of less prominent but well-off people who were caught up in this. Is the U.S. attorney's office here making an example by insisting on prison time for this?

CARAPEZZA: I think so. I mean, Lori Loughlin is known for her role in - you know, as Aunty Becky on "Full House." She's kind of the headliner here in this case. The U.S. attorney would show up in court on days, you know, when her case was being held and wouldn't show up in - you know, for the other parents. I think they are kind of the marquee name here. And more than 20 other parents have already pleaded guilty in this case. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling says prosecutors will continue to pursue, you know, the accountability and undermining here. But I spoke with an advocate for low-income students at admissions, and he really thinks the couple is getting off easy here because they're actually paying less for getting caught than they did for the original crime here. So - but I do think that this is - they are being held up as an example.

INSKEEP: Oh, you're saying the fines are less than the half million or whatever that they sent to the university.

CARAPEZZA: Right. Exactly. That's what I'm hearing from advocates for low-income students. If these young women are taking spots from other qualified students, advocates for low-income students are saying that they're actually getting off easy in this case.

INSKEEP: OK. Kirk Carapezza, thanks so much.

CARAPEZZA: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.