“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, filed a motion in the college admissions scandal in Boston federal court last month refuting two of the charges the U.S. government brought against them in the case.
The motion, filed Dec. 13 with the objective to acquire evidence that could be used to help the defense fight the charges the couple faces, requested that the federal court hearing the case require the prosecution to produce evidence that Loughlin and Giannulli intended to defraud USC by paying for their daughters’ admissions as fraudulent athletic recruits.
Loughlin and Giannulli paid $500,000 between October 2016 and February 2018 to falsely designate their daughters Isabella Rose and Olivia Jade Giannulli as women’s crew recruits in order to gain them admission to the University. As of October 2019, neither Isabella Rose nor Olivia Jade was enrolled at USC, the University confirmed in a statement.
The motion states that Loughlin and Giannulli believed the money they paid to the Key Worldwide Foundation to secure their daughters’ admissions was a legitimate donation. KWF was a fraudulent charity created by William “Rick” Singer, the organizer of the college admissions scheme, to act as a liaison between parents paying for their children’s admission and university officials receiving the bribes.
However, Loughlin and Giannulli “did not understand or intend that either set of payments would be used to directly or indirectly bribe [former USC senior associate athletic director Donna] Heinel,” according to the recent motion, which seeks to frame the payment as an intended donation to University programs.
The couple were charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud in the initial court document made public in March 2019. They were named in two subsequent indictments and now face additional charges of conspiracy to commit money laundering and conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery.
According to the motion, the honest services fraud and federal programs bribery charges require the prosecution to prove that the couple intentionally made the fraudulent donation and knew that the money they paid to the Key Worldwide Foundation and the USC Athletics Department would be used to bribe Heinel.
Of the $500,000 Loughlin and Giannulli paid for their daughters’ admission, they paid $100,000 directly to Heinel, according to court documents. The motion filed by the defense claims the government has failed to release evidence relevant to whether Singer had told them and other parents named in the admissions case that the money they paid would be used for a legitimate cause.
“The Government appears to be concealing exculpatory evidence that helps show that both Defendants believed all of the payments they made would go to USC itself — for legitimate, university-approved purposes — or to other legitimate charitable causes,” the motion stated. “The Government’s failure to disclose this information is unacceptable, and this Court should put a stop to it.”
In the motion, the defense stated that the allegations of the couple paying to secure their children’s admission do not necessarily constitute bribery, citing the court’s rejection of USC’s claim that it does not accept applicants on the basis of donations. According to the document, the difference between a bribe and a donation is whether the money paid was known to the university granting admission.
The motion cited an Annenberg Media story published last month about Heinel’s private consulting company, which offered workshops for high school counselors, parents and student-athletes about NCAA eligibility, as evidence that the University was aware of the Giannullis’ payments, making them “open” rather than “matters of concealment.”
The government opposed a similar motion made by Gamal Abdelaziz, a Las Vegas casino executive named in the case who allegedly paid $300,000 to KWF, which then bribed Heinel to falsely designate Abdelaziz’s daughter as a USC basketball recruit. Abdelaziz’s defense requested information about whether the payment was made to Heinel’s personal account or to a University account overseen by Heinel, but the government declined to release the information, saying it was “irrelevant to the question whether the payment was a bribe.”