College admissions scheme organizer William “Rick” Singer told at least one set of parents a portion of the money they paid for their children’s admission would go directly to the University, prosecutors confirmed in a filing in federal court Friday.
According to the document, Singer told “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, that the two initial payments of $50,000 they made to secure their daughters’ admissions to USC as women’s rowing recruits were legitimate donations to the University.
“Singer did recall telling the Giannulli[s] that the first $50,000 for each girl went to USC,” the document stated. “They did not specifically discuss the amount of money that would go to a USC program out of the $200,000.”
The couple allegedly paid Singer $500,000 between October 2016 and February 2018 and said they believed a portion of the money was sent as a gift to the University’s athletics program and Galen Center rather than a bribe to senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel, who accepted the students’ falsified recruitment profiles and presented them to admissions committees for approval, as the prosecution originally contended. Singer also testified that the couple believed part of the two $200,000 payments they made upon their daughters’ offers of conditional admission would go to the University.
Loughlin and Giannulli’s defense filed a motion in December claiming Singer had misled the couple and asserting that the bribery would be unfounded if the defense could prove the couple did not intend to defraud the University. Federal programs bribery carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of twice the amount of money involved.
Loughlin and Giannulli currently face charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering for their role in the admissions scandal.
Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice in March after agreeing to cooperate with federal investigators and prosecutors in September 2018. He recorded phone calls with the parents involved and collected information about the scheme to submit to the prosecution in the months leading up to the case being made public in March.
In another filing made Wednesday, the prosecution proposed a set of two to three hearings for the parents who have pleaded not guilty and requested that Loughlin and Giannulli stand trial in October with the first group of parents.
Of the 36 parents named in the admissions case, 15 — including 11 USC parents — have opted to contest charges. They will be tried and, if found guilty, sentenced in federal court in a series of hearings expected to continue through early 2021, according to the memorandum filed by prosecutors Wednesday.
In a separate reply document filed Friday, Loughlin and Giannulli responded to allegations that they had not released potentially incriminating evidence to the prosecution, reiterating that the government was refusing to release information that could support the defense’s argument. The defense also alleged that the government pressured Loughlin and Giannulli into pleading guilty, falsely claimed it had released all relevant evidence and intimidated parents who chose not to plead guilty by bringing additional charges against them.
The defense stated that because the government did not turn over the evidence by the initial release deadline May 30, the court should require prosecutors to release all information that could be used in the couple’s defense argument.
“As its eleventh-hour disclosures illustrate, the Government cannot be trusted to make Brady determinations on its own,” the document stated. “This Court should put a stop to the Government’s unconstitutional game of evidentiary hide-and-seek once and for all.”
The Brady Rule requires prosecutors to release all information relevant to the questions of the defendants’ guilt to the defense.
In the reply, the defense also argued that because USC confirmed that parents’ legitimate philanthropy can impact the likelihood of their children’s admission and because some of the money Loughlin and Giannulli paid for their daughters’ acceptances was deposited into University accounts — albeit ones controlled by Heinel — the payments cannot be considered bribes.
“The Government’s theory is apparently that even though USC affirmatively accepts donations in exchange for admissions, and even though that approach is ‘legitimate,’ and even though Giannulli and Loughlin’s donations actually went to USC and not into the pockets of a rogue employee, Giannulli and Loughlin are still somehow guilty of paying bribes to defraud USC,” the document read. “That argument flunks common sense.”
The reply included requests for specific evidence, including information about the extent of University officials’ knowledge of the donations made by parents in the scandal and complete copies of Singer’s testimonies regarding what he told the parents of their payments’ allocation.
Loughlin and Giannulli’s next status conference is scheduled for Feb. 27.