New details have emerged about the alleged involvement of actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli in the college admissions scandal.
A new, 526-page motion, filed Tuesday in Massachusetts federal court, is the government’s response to a recent argument by Loughlin, Giannulli, and additional defendants who have pleaded not guilty. The defendants say the government has withheld evidence, that multiple uncharged officials at the University of Southern California were aware of the scam, and that the couple engaged in a legitimate practice in which universities “regularly solicit donations from the families of prospective students” that can impact the students’ chances of admission.
As a part of its motion, the government released dozens of heavily redacted emails, documents and call transcripts to support its position — many of which include exchanges between Giannulli, Loughlin, and scam mastermind William “Rick” Singer and his associates. Prosecutors say while the government had not interviewed any current or former USC employees who knew the extent of Singer’s scam as a quid pro quo, the the documents show the couple themselves had specifically rejected the ‘legitimate’ approach” they had outlined in their own defense as a part of Singer’s scam.
‘I think we are all squared away’
The new documents show how Giannulli and Loughlin interacted with Singer and how the alleged scam worked for their two daughters. Multiple emails illustrate in greater detail how the couple worked with Singer and his associates to create fake athletic profiles for their two daughters, who were purportedly rowing recruits, to get into USC. In one element of the profile created for their older daughter, she is described as “an earnest, outspoken, incredibly positive-minded coxswain” who “puts extra effort in to everything she does.”
One email exchange discusses the photos used of that daughter as a part of the profile. After Singer sent now-former USC official Donna Heinel the falsified profile of the older Giannulli daughter, Heinel requested a different photo of the girl.
“Donna asked for a picture of her in a boat,” Singer wrote to one of his associates. “Is there a coxswain picture we can use that is tough to see the face since they are sitting online?” Singer wrote.
Heinel has pleaded not guilty and her attorney declined to comment on the latest filing. Singer has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with prosecutors in the case.
In another exchange, a USC development official reached out to Giannulli as an alumni of the university, inquiring if they could set up an individualized tour or “flag” his daughter’s application.
“I think we are all squared away,” Giannulli responded to the official.
He forwarded the email to his wife, Loughlin, with an addition — “The nicest I’ve been at blowing off somebody.”
In a statement to CNN, USC said, “What was being offered to the Giannullis was neither special nor unique. Tours, classroom visits and meetings are routinely offered. The primary purpose of a flag is to be able to track the outcome of the admission review process. It is not a substitute for otherwise being qualified for admission to USC.”
Giannulli’s deep ties to USC extended in other ways as well. When he was set to play golf with the then-USC Athletics Director Pat Haden at Augusta National, he emailed Singer that he wasn’t going to say anything about their working together. In response, Singer referenced a meeting with Haden a year prior when Haden told him that he “felt you were good for a million plus.” Giannulli replied, “HAH!!”
Other emails shed light on the payment and donation process when it came to the Key Worldwide Foundation, the sham charity run by Singer. When Singer instructed the couple to send a $50,000 check payable to USC Womens (sic) Athletics and another $200,000 to Singer’s fake charity the Key Worldwide Foundation, Giannulli forwarded the $200,000 invoice to his financial adviser and wrote “the last college ‘donation’ for [my younger daughter]. Can’t I write this off?”
CNN has reached out to attorneys for Loughlin and Giannulli for comment. Both have pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The purported scam did not unfold without red flags from others along the way. One document outlined a phone call between a counselor from the Giannullis’ eldest daughter’s high school and USC, in which the counselor was checking up on multiple applicants. When the conversation turned to the Giannullis’ daughter, the counselor said they “had no knowledge” of her involvement in crew, and “doubted she was involved in crew.” The conversation then turned to other applicants with no further incident, according to the document.
But in the end, both Giannulli daughters were accepted to USC, though neither attends anymore. The younger daughter’s conditional acceptance letter is included in the filing, saying that she has the potential to “make a significant contribution to the intercollegiate athletic program as well as to the academic life of the university.”
A ‘side door’ approach
Throughout the latest court filing, prosecutors detailed how Singer told potential clients about his “side door” approach to get their children in to elite colleges.
In response to one parent who didn’t want to do anything “improper,” Singer emailed, “OK side door is not improper nor is back door both are how all schools fund their special programs or needs.”
Another parent, Agustin Huneeus Jr, asked Singer, “is there any risk that thing blows up in my face?” to which Singer replied, “hasn’t in 24 years.” Huneeus subsequently pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five months in prison.
The government indicated in its filing that it continues to build its case against Singer’s clients who have pleaded not guilty. So far, the government says it has seized 1.5 million pages of emails, nearly 500,000 other documents, 4,000 intercepted or consensually recorded telephone calls and text messages.
A status conference for the case is set to occur Friday.