Lori Loughlin, more parents face new bribery charge in college admissions scandal

Actress Lori Loughlin exits a courthouse on April 3 after facing charges for allegedly conspiring to commit mail fraud and other charges in the college admissions scandal. (Photo: JOSEPH PREZIOSO, AFP/Getty Images)

BOSTON — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged 11 parents and seven others who continue to maintain their innocence in the college admissions scandal with new crimes that could involve potentially harsher sentences.

Among the parents hit with the new charge is actress Lori Loughlin and husband fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters classified as crew recruits to get them admitted into the University of Southern California.

The moves come after four parents pleaded guilty in Boston federal court Monday, choosing to cave rather than face an additional bribery charge that prosecutors threatened they would bring. 

In addition, prosecutors brought new fraud conspiracy charges against seven university officials and others, including coaches, who have pleaded not guilty to crimes. 

The new charge for parents — conspiracy to commit federal program bribery — is outlined in a superseding indictment filed in Boston federal court. The charges add to the fraud and money laundering charges that the parents already face for paying Rick Singer, the mastermind of a nationwide college admissions scandal.

The new charges continue the pressure from prosecutors that has accelerated against parents and coaches since the Justice Department announced the “Varsity Blues” scandal in Mach.

“Today’s charges are the result of ongoing investigation in the nationwide college admissions case,” U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement. “Our goal from the beginning has been to hold the defendants fully accountable for corrupting the college admissions process through cheating, bribery and fraud. 

U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling (Photo: Steven Senne, AP)

The federal programs bribery statute involves theft or bribery from entities that receive at least $10,000 in federal funding. Prosecutors argue the 11 parents conspired to commit federal program bribery by bribing employees of USC to facilitate entry as fake athletic recruits. 

Other parents facing the new charge are Gamal Abdelaziz, Diane Blake, Todd Blake, Elisabeth Kimmell, William McGlashan, Jr., Marci Palatella, John Wilson, Homayoun Zadeh, and Robert Zangrillo.

The four parents who pleaded guilty Monday —  Douglas Hodge, Michelle Janavs and Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez — told a judge they were promised no new additional charges would come their way if they pleaded guilty.

“If the court accepts my plea, the government has promised not to seek or bring additional charges against me,” Manuel Henriquez, founder and CEO of the venture capital firm Hercules Capital, said prior to pleading guilty.

Although nine of 10 parents have received prison, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani has rejected the government’s push to use the amount of bribes paid to Singer to factor into sentencing. 

Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.

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