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- The actress Lori Loughlin and the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli were both charged Tuesday in a sweeping college-admissions scam in which prosecutors accuse them of paying bribes to get their two Instagram “influencer” daughters into a top school.
- The couple paid $500,000 to have Isabella and Olivia Giannulli designated as recruits to the University of Southern California’s crew team, when neither daughter rowed crew, according to the charging documents.
- The Giannulli daughters are both prominent figures on Instagram, where they have millions of followers, collectively.
- Olivia Giannulli also has nearly 2 million subscribers on YouTube, where she often posts makeup and fashion videos and once said she didn’t “really care about school.”
The actress Lori Loughlin was charged Tuesday in a sweeping college-admissions scam that netted dozens of high-profile figures after prosecutors accused her of paying bribes to get her two Instagram “influencer” daughters into a top school under false pretenses.
According to the indictment, Loughlin and her husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, paid $500,000 in bribes for their two teenage daughters to be designated as recruits to the University of Southern California’s crew team – despite the fact that neither rowed crew.
An affidavit released by the Justice Department cited emails, mostly between Mossimo Giannulli and a cooperating witness, that prosecutors say showed the Giannullis plotting out how to get both daughters admitted to the prestigious school.
“We just met with [our older daughter’s] college counselor this am,” Giannulli wrote in an email, according to the documents. “I’d like to maybe sit with you after your session with the girls as I have some concerns and want to fully understand the game plan and make sure we have a roadmap for success as it relates to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than ASU!”
Loughlin’s and Massimo Giannulli’s representatives did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
How prosecutors say Loughlin got her daughters into USC
Loughlin’s daughters, Isabella Giannulli and Olivia Giannulli, are both prominent social-media figures who have collectively garnered millions of followers on Instagram.
But Isabella Giannulli’s academic qualifications were “at or just below the ‘low end’ of USC’s admission standards,” according to an email sent from a cooperating witness to Massimo Giannulli, cited in the documents released Tuesday.
As a workaround, prosecutors say the Giannullis agreed to use bribes to help admit Isabella Giannulli as a crew coxswain – even using a picture of her on an indoor rowing machine. The coxswain on a rowing team typically doesn’t row, instead giving the team directions and steering.
Giannulli also agreed to make a “significant contribution” to the school’s intercollegiate athletic program, according to the affidavit.
Instead, the documents say, Mossimo Giannulli wired $200,000 to the fake nonprofit “Key Worldwide Foundation” and in turn received a receipt that falsely said “no goods or services were exchanged.” Roughly one year later, prosecutors say the Giannullis repeated the process for Olivia Giannulli.
On an October 2018 call, according to the documents, Giannulli was told to say their $400,000 donation went to a “foundation to help underserved kids.”
The daughters have millions of social-media followers, and their accounts are already flooded with angry comments
Olivia Giannulli has made a name for herself as a beauty guru on YouTube with nearly 2 million subscribers. She recently gave a public apology after receiving backlash for saying in a video she didn’t “really care about school.”
“I don’t know how much of school I’m going to attend,” she said in one August 14, 2018, video. “But I’m going go in and talk to my deans and everyone and hope that I can try and balance it all. But I do want the experience of, like, game days, partying, I don’t really care about school – as you guys all know.”
She posted a follow-up video titled “im sorry” two days later, conceding that her remarks were “super ignorant and stupid.”
“It totally came across that I’m not grateful for college – I’m going to a really nice school. And it just kind of made it seem like I don’t care, I just want to brush it off, I’m just going to be successful on YouTube and not have to worry about school,” Olivia Giannulli said in the video. “I’m really disappointed in myself. I’m not here to make excuses or whatever.”
Already, both daughters’ Instagram photos have been flooded with angry comments accusing them of bribing their way into college and sarcastically asking how “crew team” is going:
Olivia Giannulli faced particular scrutiny after social-media users resurfaced her old Instagram photos revealing paid partnerships with top brands, including one with Amazon Prime Student. She did not immediately respond to INSIDER’s request for comment.
Dozens of parents were charged in the scheme
Prosecutors said Tuesday that parents paid anywhere from $200,000 to $6.5 million between 2011 and 2019 to bribe coaches and college administrators to designate their children as athletes or alter their test scores to help them gain admission.
USC said in a statement that the school was conducting its own internal investigation and will review its admissions process, but did not mention whether it would take action against any students who have already been admitted through the alleged scam.
“The university is reviewing its admissions processes broadly to ensure that such actions do not occur going forward,” the statement said.
No students were charged in the scheme, and prosecutors said many of the students were not aware of the fraud. Regardless, US Attorney Andrew Lelling told reporters at a press conference that the scam was not a victimless crime.
“For every student admitted through this fraud, a legitimate, talented student was not accepted,” Lelling said.
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