Actress Lori Loughlin is facing a new bribery charge after federal prosecutors on Tuesday said they brought additional charges against 18 wealthy parents, university athletic officials and others accused of participating in the largest US college admissions scam ever uncovered.
The star of the Full House television show is one of 11 parents hit with new charges. Federal prosecutors in Boston say Loughlin conspired to bribe University of Southern California employees to secure the admission of her two daughters.
She and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were previously charged with conspiring to commit honest services fraud and money laundering. They now face a new charge of conspiring to commit federal programmes bribery.
The new charges contained in the revised indictment filed against them and the other parents adds to the potential maximum prison terms they each face if convicted. In Loughlin’s case, it jumped from 40 to 45 years, though she would likely get far less.
All 11 parents have previously pleaded not guilty.
“Our goal from the beginning has been to hold the defendants fully accountable for corrupting the college admissions process through cheating, bribery and fraud,” US Attorney Andrew Lelling said.
Defence lawyers did not respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors have charged 52 people with participating in a vast scheme in which wealthy parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.
William “Rick” Singer, the consultant, pleaded guilty in March to charges he facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and helped bribe sports coaches at universities to present his clients’ children as fake athletic recruits.
The 35 parents charged since March include Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, who last week began serving a 14-day prison term after pleading guilty.
Prosecutors allege that Loughlin and Giannulli agreed with Singer to pay $500,000 to have their two daughters named as recruits to the University of Southern California (USC) crew team, even though they did not row competitively.
At an August 27 hearing, William Trach, their lawyer, argued that “zero evidence” existed to support the allegations, saying they believed they were providing legitimate donations to USC.
The new charges came a day after USC confirmed that the couple’s daughters, Olivia Jade Giannulli and Isabella Rose Giannulli, were no longer enrolled at the school.
Four other parents, including former Pimco Chief Executive Douglas Hodge and Hercules Capital Inc founder Manuel Henriquez, pleaded guilty on Monday after prosecutors agreed to not bring additional charges against them if they did so.