Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli plead not guilty in college bribery scam

Boston — Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges that they paid $500 000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California.

The couple is among 50 prominent parents, athletic coaches and others charged in a sweeping college admissions bribery scam that has embroiled elite schools across the country, such as Stanford, Georgetown and Yale.

Loughlin and Giannulli filed court documents on Monday waiving their right to appear for an arraignment and entering not guilty pleas to the two charges against them. The judge granted their requests, meaning they will not have to show up at Boston's federal court to be arraigned.

Thirty-three wealthy parents were charged last month in what authorities have called the biggest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Justice Department. They are accused of paying admissions consultant Rick Singer to rig standardised test scores and bribe college coaches and other insiders to get their children into selective schools.

Loughlin and Giannulli are charged with paying bribes to have their daughters designated as crew recruits to USC, even though neither of them is a rower. Authorities say Loughlin and Giannulli helped create fake athletic profiles for the teens by sending Singer photos of their teens posing on rowing machines.

After their older daughter was admitted to USC, authorities say Giannulli, whose Mossimo clothing had long been a Target brand until recently, sent Singer an email with the subject line, "Trojan happiness," thanking him for his "efforts and end result!"

Loughlin and Giannulli haven't publicly addressed the allegations against them.

Their daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli — a social media star who has a popular YouTube channel — was dropped from deals with cosmetics retailer Sephora and hair products company TRESemme after her parents' arrest.

Prosecutors last week added a money laundering conspiracy charge against Loughlin, Giannulli and more than a dozen other parents who are still fighting the case, increasing the pressure on them to plead guilty. Several other parents who were indicted alongside Loughlin and Giannulli have also filed court documents entering not guilty pleas.

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Each of the charges Loughlin and Giannulli faces call for up to 20 years in prison, although first-time offenders would get only a small fraction of that if convicted.

Fellow actress Felicity Huffman, who starred in ABC's Desperate Housewives, and 12 other parents announced last week that they have agreed to plead guilty to a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Huffman is scheduled to appear in Boston on 21 May to enter her plea.

Prosecutors have said they will seek a prison sentence on the low end of four to 10 months for Huffman, who was charged with paying $15 000 to boost her daughter's SAT score.

READ MORE: Felicity Huffman to plead guilty in college scam