Actress Lori Loughlin and 15 other wealthy parents now face an additional charge of money laundering as part of the growing college admissions scandal.
The parents, who were charged last month with conspiracy to commit fraud, were charged on Tuesday in a superseding indictment with conspiring to launder bribes and other payments through a charity run by Rick Singer, the mastermind of the scam, as well as by transferring money into the United States to promote the fraud, prosecutors said.
Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to Singer’s fake charity to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though the daughters did not participate in the sport.
The couple appeared last week in federal court in Boston, but they have not publicly indicated how they plan to plea.
In addition, Gamal Abdelaziz, Diane and Todd Blake, I-Hsin “Joey” Chen, Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez, Douglas Hodge, Michelle Janavs, Elisabeth Kimmel, William McGlashan Jr., Marci Palatella, John Wilson, Homayoun Zadeh and Robert Zangrillo were also charged in the superseding indictment.
Thirty-three wealthy parents were among 50 people arrested last month in a sprawling investigation that officials dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” Prosecutors said the parents used their wealth to cheat on standardized tests for their children and bribe college administrators and coaches who had say over who was admitted.
The added charges come just a day after 13 other parents, including actress Felicity Huffman, and one coach agreed to plead guilty in the case.
Huffman, the former star of “Desperate Housewives,” pleaded guilty to paying $15,000 to the charity known as Key Worldwide Foundation to facilitate cheating for her daughter on the SATs, the complaint said. In a statement, she expressed “deep regret and shame over what I have done.”
Mounting troubles for Loughlin
The money laundering charge is another blow for Loughlin, the “Full House” actress who was dropped by the Hallmark Channel and other brands in the wake of last month’s charges. Sephora also ended a makeup partnership with her daughter, the social media influencer Olivia Jade, who was a student at USC.
Loughlin’s daughters were recruited to USC as coxswains — the crew member responsible for steering — even though they did not row competitively or otherwise participate in crew, the criminal complaint says. She and Giannulli even sent Singer photos of each daughter on an ergometer, the rowing machine, the complaint says.
“I wanted to thank you again for your great work with (our older daughter), she is very excited and both Lori and I are very appreciative of your efforts and end result!” Giannulli allegedly wrote in an email to Singer that is included in the complaint.
Also on Tuesday, attorneys representing some of the parents charged in the superseding indictment filed a letter with the US District Court chief judge in Boston, stating prosecutors were engaging in “judge shopping.”
The letter said that their clients shouldn’t be included in the same indictment as David Sidoo, another parent charged last month with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. The attorneys charge that the move to include them in one indictment along with Sidoo is a maneuver by the US Attorney’s office to evade the random assignment of judges.
Citing that none of their clients have connections to or have done business with Sidoo, the attorneys say that the prosecutors’ plan to join their clients into the Sidoo indictment “is a clear form of judge shopping.”