BOSTON (CN) — “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin was released from the big house Monday after serving two months in federal prison for her part in the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal.
Loughlin and her husband had pleaded guilty to paying college admissions consultant Rick Singer $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits — even though neither daughter participated in the sport.
The 56-year-old actress was released from the low-security federal women’s prison in Dublin, California, some 35 miles east of San Francisco, where as of last week at least 185 inmates and three staff were confirmed to have coronavirus infections.
Apparently not connected the Covid outbreak, however, Loughlin’s release was due to her sentence being up.
Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, is serving a five-month sentence at a federal prison in Lompoc, California, near Santa Barbara, and is due to be released on April 17.
In addition to prison time, Loughlin must pay a $150,000 fine and serve 100 hours of community service and two years of supervised release as part of a plea deal with the government.
“You had more money than you could possibly need, a beautiful home in sunny southern California, a fairy tale life,” the Boston-based U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton had scolded Loughlin at her sentencing hearing in August.
“And yet here you are, a convicted felon. And for what? For the inexplicable desire to have even more,” Gorton went on, adding that he was “dumbfounded” by her “gall.”
Loughlin received a lighter sentence than her husband because Giannulli “engaged more frequently with Singer, directed the bribe payments to USC and Singer, and personally confronted his daughter’s high school counselor to prevent the scheme from being discovered, brazenly lying about his daughter’s athletic abilities,” according to the government’s sentencing recommendations.
Loughlin was accused of going along with the scheme and staging photos of her daughters using a rowing machine.
In addition to his five-month sentence, Giannulli was given a $250,000 fine, 250 hours of community service and two years of supervised release under a separate plea agreement.
“This type of behavior is not simply overzealous parenting,” said prosecutor Kristen Kearney, adding that it reflects “a privileged and entitled attitude for which prison is the only answer.”
The couple were among dozens of wealthy parents, coaches and college officials rounded up in the college-recruitment scheme dubbed Varsity Blues by the FBI.
“Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman had a considerably lighter sentence: She spent only 11 days in jail and paid a $30,000 fine after pleading guilty to paying $15,000 to have someone correct her daughter’s SAT exam.
A key difference in the sentences was that Huffman’s daughter was kept in the dark about the cheating whereas Loughlin and her husband involved their children in their criminal activity. Evidence emerged that the daughters, who were minors at the time, willfully participated in the staged photos and were copied on emails between their parents and Singer.
At least 53 people have been charged with participating in the scandal in which parents paid Singer more than $25 million between 2011 and 2018. About a dozen are still fighting the charges.
Loughlin and her husband resisted pleading guilty for more than a year before agreeing to the deals in May 2020, and there was speculation that they finally accepted a plea bargain to spare their daughters, Isabella and Olivia Jade, from being charged themselves or being called to testify against them.
Olivia Jade is a former Instagram and YouTube star who had some 2 million followers before the scam came to light. The scandal also caused Loughlin to be dropped from the final season of “Fuller House” on Netflix as well as “When Calls the Heart” on the Hallmark Channel.
Loughlin “lost the acting career she had spent 40 years building” and became “the undisputed face of the national scandal,” said her defense lawyer, William Trach of Latham & Watkins in Boston.
Trach noted that Loughlin was raised in a working-class family who lived paycheck-to-paycheck and didn’t go to college herself.
“I made an awful decision,” Loughlin told the court at her sentencing. “I thought I was acting out of love for my children, but in reality it only undermined my daughters’ abilities and accomplishments” and “exacerbated existing inequalities in society.”