BOSTON (CBS SF / AP) — “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, were hit Tuesday with a new charge in the sweeping college admissions bribery scheme.
An indictment brought Tuesday adds a charge of money laundering conspiracy against couple and 14 other parents, including Mill Valley executive Bill McGlashan, formerly of TPG Capital and a leading Silicon Valley voice on ethical investing.
The move comes a day after fellow actress Felicity Huffman, 12 other parents and a coach agreed to plead guilty — signaling an escalation in the case against the parents who are continuing to fight the allegations against them.
“By having all these guilty pleas at one time, it’s to send a message out there to the remaining defendants that you better get in here and you better get in here quick,” CBS News Legal Analyst Rikki Klieman said.
She argues the parents who are maintaining their innocence may have a more difficult road ahead.
“Felicity Huffman pleading guilty and giving such a perfect statement of remorse and contrition is a very bad sign for Lori Loughlin… If you go forward and fight this case you could really wind up with a sentence that is a lot of time in prison,” Klieman said.
Former Federal Prosecutor Micah Reiner agrees, he argues the fact that the alleged ring leader of the scheme Rick Singer is cooperating could add to that uphill battle for those maintaining their innocence.
“That’s kind of unusual, usually people at the bottom of the conspiracy cooperate against the people at the top but in this case the people at the top are cooperating against the people at the bottom,” Reiner said.
Reiner says prosecutors are likely using these guilty pleas to their advantage, hoping the prominent parents involved will cooperate and try to take themselves out of the public eye.
“A lot of times defendants feel a certain amount of desire to get things over with if the public is greatly interested in the case, it could mean certain defendants not wanting the media coverage that comes with the possibility of a trial,” Reiner said.
Loughlin and Giannulli were among 33 prominent parents accused of participating in a scheme that involved rigging college entrance exams and bribing coaches at elite universities.
They were arrested last month on a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.
The revised indictment also folds in three other parents who were previously indicted on those two charges — Gregory and Amy Colburn of Palo Alto and David Sidoo of Vancouver — for a total of 19 defendants.
Newly-indicted Bay Area parents also include Diane Blake, 55, and Todd Blake, 53, of Ross; Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez, both 56, of Atherton; and Marci Palatella, 63, of Hillsborough.
The parents are accused of paying an admissions consultant, Rick Singer, to cheat on their children’s college entrance exams and get their children admitted as athletic recruits at such elite schools as Georgetown and Yale.
Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport.
They appeared in Boston federal court briefly last week and were not asked to enter a plea. They have not publicly addressed the allegations against them.
Other parents indicted on the new charge Tuesday include Michelle Janavs, whose family developed the microwave snack line Hot Pockets before selling their company.
Huffman, the 56-year-old Emmy-winner who stared in ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” was accused of paying $15,000 disguised as a charitable donation to have a proctor correct the answers on her daughter’s SAT. She and the 12 other parents agreed to plead guilty Monday to a single charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
Prosecutors say they will seek a prison sentence that’s on the low end of between four and 10 months for Huffman.
In her first public comments since her arrest, Huffman took responsibility for her actions and said she would accept the consequences.
“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her. This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life. My desire to help my daughter is no excuse to break the law or engage in dishonesty,” she said after her plea deal was announced.