Hollywood has been captivated by the FBI’s Operation Varsity Blues college admissions investigation that has ensnared Hollywood actors and business titans. Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin along with Loughlin’s fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli are all due in Boston court April 3rd, 2:30p for their roles in the sweeping $25 million admissions fraud.
All three are charged with the same federal felony crimes: Conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. While their charges are the same, they are likely to differ in criminal defense strategy and punishment outcomes.
Loughlin Paid Over $500,000 in Bribes
Giannulli and Loughlin are alleged to have paid over $500,000 in bribes to help get their daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli into USC. After appearing in court, they were released on a $1 million bond each. They have reportedly hired a team of top-flight white-collar criminal defense lawyers at Latham & Watkins: Sean Berkowitz, Perry Viscounty and B.J. Trach. Huffman is alleged to have paid $15,000 for admissions test scam to boost her daughter’s score. After her March 12th federal court appearance, Huffman was released on $250,000 bond.
Her lawyer Marty Murphy from Foley Hoag in Boston is another high powered defense lawyer that specializes in high stakes litigation. Orange County criminal defense attorney Tsion Chudnovsky of Chudnovsky Law says the stakes are very high here since “Federal sentencing guidelines call for up to 20 years for these charges.” She says the legal consequences could vary quite a bit between the two actresses due to the large difference between the bribes they paid. “It will be easier to defend a $15,000 bribe vs. a $500,000 bribe.”
“Core to the defense will be focusing on the fact that these were parents trying to give their kids an education boost, not some large financial scam or violent crime. If defense counsel is able to convince the court that this event was a one-time aberration, they may achieve a moderate sentence.”
FBI Got Singer to Wear Wire to Record Parent Conversations
The Department of Justice appears to have built an airtight case by flipping the ring-leader William Rick Singer and getting him to wear a wire to record all the parents explaining the fraud in crystal clear terms. It’s hard to imagine all these high priced lawyers will do anything except negotiate the best plea deal they can manage.“Charging Huffman with federal felonies for a small $15,000 bribe clearly shows the Department of Justice has a strategy of maximum deterrence here. This is very aggressive prosecution and publicity for what would typically be a minor offense,” according to Chudnovsky.
Loughlin Fired From Shows and Olivia Dropped by Sponsors
Regardless of how these actresses fare, parents will definitely think twice before attempting anything like this again. Lori Loughlin is living a nightmare right now. Loughlin has been dropped from three TV shows by Hallmark and Netflix. Her daughter Olivia had developed a great social influencer career, but now her fashion clients Sephora and Tresemme have dumped her too. Time will tell if they manage to turn this into some kind of reality TV show after the dust settles.