Feds Say Evidence Delays in College-Bribe Case Won’t Help Loughlin

BOSTON (CN) — Accused by TV’s Aunt Becky of withholding evidence, federal prosecutors have doubled down on their claims against the former “Full House” actress ensnared in the college admissions scandal.

Prosecutors claim that Lori Loughlin — along with her husband, Mossimo Giannulli — paid $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters falsely designated as athletes so that their academic histories would face less scrutiny from the University of Southern California admissions office.

Lori Loughlin, center, poses with daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli, left, and Isabella Rose Giannulli, at a 2019 film premiere in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The deal was one of dozens worked out by the now-convicted life coach Rick Singer, who brought together college athletic officials, admissions officers and testing executives from across the country to take bribes from his client roster of wealthy families.

Though Loughlin and Giannulli insist they thought they were making legal donations, not bribes, the government says it has wiretap evidence documenting the couple’s complicity.

“So we just — so we just have to say we made a donation to your foundation and that’s it, end of story?” Loughlin asked Singer, according to the transcript of one 2018 call quoted in a government opposition brief.

The government entered the filing Wednesday night in Boston, where Loughlin and Giannulli are part of a group of 23 defendants preparing for trial in case that has seen plea deals from 30 others.

About six weeks ago, the couple had already been fighting the charges against them for nearly a full year when the government handed them 47 pages of incriminating notes that Singer had kept on his iPhone while cooperating with the FBI.

“The government should have produced the notes earlier, under the applicable deadline set by the Local Rules,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank conceded in Wednesday’s brief. “But the defendants’ contention that the government acted in bad faith is baseless; in a sprawling, fast-moving prosecution, the failure to produce the notes earlier was simply a mistake. The defendants have suffered no prejudice, and their suggestion that the notes somehow ‘exonerate’ them, or reveal that the evidence against them was fabricated, is demonstrably false.”

Among other points, Singer’s notes say the FBI told him to lie in phone calls with the parents and say he told them the payments were bribes.

Prosecutor Frank disputes, however, that any of the evidence against Loughlin and Giannulli was obtained by coercing Singer.

“As illustrated by the defendants’ own actions and statements to Singer before he began cooperating, the defendants had by that point already formed the criminal intent to falsify their children’s athletic profiles and make quid pro quo payments styled as ‘donations’ to university programs to gain admission for their children through athletics,” the 36-page filing states.

Frank says any challenges to the evidence can be tackled at trial.

“An evidentiary hearing in this case would serve no purpose,” he wrote. “Even if the contentions in Singer’s notes were true — and they are not — they would not justify taking the unprecedented step of dismissing the indictment or suppressing the consensual recordings. At most, Singer’s note raises issues for cross-examination and argument at trial, and questions of credibility and proof that are properly reserved for the jury.”

Loughlin and Giannulli are scheduled to go to trial in October alongside six other parents charged in the case.

The allegations include claims that Loughlin went as far as to have her daughters stage photos of them rowing since it was the false designation of them as crew recruits that was getting them into USC.

Nearly two dozen parents, including “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman, have pleaded guilty to similar charges.

Huffman admitted to paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT answers corrected before they were official submitted. She spent 11 days in prison after pleading guilty to the offense.

Neither attorneys for Loughlin nor a spokesman for the Department of Justice responded to an email seeking comment.

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