Actress Lori Loughlin appeared in Los Angeles federal court Wednesday afternoon, following her arrest for involvement in what authorities say is the largest college admission scam in the United States. The actress has been charged with allegedly funneling $500,000 to rowing coaches at the University of Southern California in order to secure admission to the elite school for her two daughters, Isabella and Olivia, also known as the YouTube influencer Olivia Jade.
According to court documents published by BuzzFeed News, Loughlin’s bribe allowed for both girls to be accepted as rowing recruits, despite the fact that neither teenager rows crew. Loughlin’s husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, also named among the 50 individuals charged in the indictment, appeared in court Tuesday.
In court Wednesday afternoon, the former Full House star sat in the corner of the courtroom in a white turtleneck sweater and black glasses, looking the embodiment of her stage husband John Stamos’ sitcom catchphrase (“Have mercy!”). After Judge Steve Kim called her to the stand and advised the Aunt Becky actress of her rights, Loughlin’s attorneys, defense lawyers Marc Harris and Perry Viscounty, announced an arrangement with Los Angeles prosecutor Alex Wyman that would allow her some travel rights.
The judge wasn’t thrilled. Although both parties agreed to set the actress’ bail at $1 million—with allowances to travel throughout the United States and in the Canadian province of British Columbia, where she has several upcoming projects to shoot—Judge Kim pushed back.
“I don’t feel comfortable with that,” he said, “I’m not willing to grant international travel.”
After the judge went on to ask about the number of upcoming projects the actress had planned outside the U.S., Loughlin at one point attempted to answer the question herself—only to be shushed.
“You need to let your counsel talk for you,” Judge Kim advised.
After consulting with his client, attorney Harris told the judge that Loughlin has two projects in April and May for a series set to launch in July. Her travel schedule, he claimed, would calm down by November 2019. The judge relented, telling Loughlin to surrender her passport in December 2019.
Both Loughlin and her husband put the deed of their home, which the defense declined to identify in court, up for their bonds and were released on bail.
This isn’t the first time Loughlin has gotten involved in a school-related scam. In Season 6 of the hit ABC series Full House, Loughlin’s character, Becky Katsopolis, gets into an argument with her stage husband, Jesse Katsopolis, played by Stamos, about embellishing an application to get their twin sons into a high end pre-school called Bouton Hall. According to Us Weekly, in order to give their kids an edge, Stamos tells the pre-school administrators that their 2-year-old sons, Nicky and Alex, can speak multiple languages and play the bassoon. But life doesn’t always imitate art, because the episode “Be True to Your Preschool” ends with Loughlin deciding the boys don’t need to be put on a “fast track.” (“Whatever track they’re on,” Becky says in the show, “they seem to be doing OK.”)
In reality, Loughlin could face up to five years in federal prison.
At the center of the admission scandal that Loughlin and 49 other defendants have been caught up in, is a man named William Singer, the alleged mastermind of the fraud schemes who stands accused of collecting approximately $25 million from families to grease the wheels of the admissions process through a litany of well-placed bribes. Singer pleaded guilty on Tuesday to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice.
Allen Koh, CEO of the elite admissions consulting firm Cardinal Education, told The Daily Beast that he first heard about Singer in 2013 from some of his clients, who had hired Singer to get a second opinion.When he met Singer at one client’s home, Koh said, he was immediately skeptical of Singer’s promise that he could win students a spot at elite universities.“One of my mottos is—and I tell this to families, and I tell this to my staff—anyone who offers a guarantee is either lying or incompetent,” he said. He expressed those concerns to some families, he said—but due to Singer’s “titanic” reputation among the uber-wealthy, they didn’t always listen.
And while he suspected that Singer wouldn’t be able to deliver on his promises, he said he never thought that the middleman was committing felonies.“I thought he was a charlatan,” he said. “I didn’t know he was a crook.”
This is just the beginning of the fallout, Koh added. “There’s gonna be so many more names coming out. A lot more names. Just of the people I know who’ve worked with him, just a fraction were indicted the other day,” he said. “It’s gonna be ugly.”
In just over 24 hours, the defendants have already experienced significant backlash. Willkie Farr & Gallagher co-chair Gordon Caplan, who allegedly paid Singer $75,000 to doctor his daughter’s standardized test scores, took a leave of absence following the revelation. Another man named in the affidavit, Manuel Henriquez, co-founder and chief executive officer of Northern California venture debt firm Hercules Capital, “voluntarily stepped aside,” according to a statement from his company on Wednesday morning. Henriquez, the father of the only child who reportedly knew about the scam, paid bribes which allegedly helped his daughter cheat her way into Georgetown University. Henriquez will continue to work at Hercules as a board member and adviser. In 2017, he was reportedly paid $8,235,700 in total compensation.
Even Loughlin’s daughters are starting to feel the social hurt of the scandal. On Tuesday, TMZ reported that Loughlin’s influencer daughter, Olivia Jade, had spent the night before her mother’s arrest on a yacht in the Bahamas owned by the chairman of USC's board of trustees, Rick Caruso. On Wednesday afternoon, just as Loughlin prepared to leave federal court on bail, she had “decided it would be in her best interests to return home” and left Caruso’s yacht, he told TMZ.
She may be facing more than just her mother's indictment, however. Late Wednesday, USC issued a statement announcing plans to “conduct a case-by-case review for current students and graduates that may be connected to the scheme alleged by the government.”