Lori Loughlin Sentenced to Prison in College Admissions Scandal
Whatever happened to the woman who once declared her family wasn’t interesting enough for prime time TV?
“We’ve been asked to do a reality show a couple times,” Lori Loughlin revealed during an interview on E!’s Daily Pop in 2018, adding they had turned each one down flat because “we’re not that exciting.”
Even at the time her words carried a sense of misplaced humility. After all, she was a key player on a ’90s sitcom with enough feel good nostalgia to merit a reprisal more than two decades after it went off the air, her husband Mossimo Giannulli is a self-starter who turned a high school education (and a $100,000 loan from Dad) into the multi-billion dollar Mossimo clothing brand that enjoyed a healthy run in Target stores. And her daughters Isabella Rose Giannulli, 21, and Olivia Jade Giannulli, 20, appeared to have bright futures ahead of them as an actress and beauty influencer respectively.
So we’re thinking network execs may have been on to something.
Of course, now, any episode of Lori’s Full House (working title) would be must-see TV.
Everywhere you look, everywhere you go people have been talking about the 56-year-old Hallmark actress since March 2019, the day a bombshell FBI affidavit revealed she and Mossimo, 57, were caught up in the aptly named Varsity Blues college admissions scandal. That they had, in fact, allegedly paid some $500,000 in bribes to get both Bella and Olivia into the prestigious University of Southern California, according to the affidavit, by falsely claiming they were crew team recruits.
Where the Fuller House star had once been able to slip around her upscale Bel-Air, Calif. community relatively unnoticed, her every errand became breaking news.
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Not that she or Mossimo need even step foot outside their six-bedroom mansion to make headlines. In April it was announced the married couple of nearly 23 years—already charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud—were among 16 parents involved in the scandal that had been charged in a second superseding indictment with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering.
They were hit with a third bribery charge in October. And though their legal team filed a motion to postpone moving forward with a trail, alleging the government is withholding information, they faced up to 50 years in prison—the maximum sentence each could have received—before striking their plea deals in May.
And some three months later, on Aug. 21, they received their official sentence: Lori will spend two months in prison, serve two years of supervised release and 100 hours of community service and pay a fine of $150,000. Mossimo was given five months, two years of supervised release and 250 hours of community service, as well as a $250,000 fine.
And while anything ending with a jail sentence is generally bad,. For Lori, who offered a tearful apology to the judge during the virtual session, it brings an end to an almost interminable wait.
For awhile, as she rattled around the 12,000-square-foot spread they first snapped up for nearly $14 million in 2015, Lori was able to keep the worst of the “what ifs” at bay.
Firm in her beliefs that surely she wouldn’t see the inside of a prison cell, a source tells E! News, she neglected to join the 13 parents (including fellow actress Felicity Huffman) and one university athletic coach who agreed to plead guilty to the charges of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
“She thought maybe she could skate by,” the source explains. “She refused to accept any jail time and thought the DA was bluffing. She was adamant she wouldn’t do any jail time.”
But without work to busy herself with—Hallmark canceled her Garage Sale Mysteries series and edited her out of the already-filmed sixth season of When Calls the Heart, while Netflix dropped her from the final season of Fuller House—she’s had more than enough time to stew and second guess her gut reaction.
“They are the examples and the scapegoats in this case and they are feeling a tremendous amount of pressure,” a source told E! News in October. “Lori and Mossimo never wanted to accept a plea that involved jail time, but they are starting to feel their backs are against the wall and that its becoming too much. They are feeling extremely stressed out.”
At a certain point, it started to feel like that heightened level of anxiety was just their new normal. “It’s been a long slow process. The uncertainty is a lot to deal with,” another insider told E! News. “Lori obviously feels like their future is up in the air. They haven’t made plans and their lives are on hold while they are dealing with this. She is looking forward to knowing her fate and being able to deal with it. Right now they are just in limbo.”
Occasional trips to Orange County to visit with friends filled their calendar as did outings to church, but mostly the two keep to the sunny, Mediterranean-style mansion they quietly put on the market for just more than $28 million in January. (A source told E! News the timing has little to do with a potential jail sentence, rather that amateur house flipper Mossimo is ready to take on a new project now that both of their girls are done with high school.)
At the palatial spread, and their new 12,000-square-foot mansion in Hidden Hills, there’s plenty of space for Lori to do at-home yoga and invite friends and family over for nights in, her homebody behavior marking a sharp departure from her earlier commitment to maintain a sliver of normalcy.
Though she spent large swaths of her day at home, the self-described “kid from Long Island,” a proud product of middle class roots, made it a point to keep up her regular workouts and social engagements. The difference being that when she exited her go-to yoga studio she had to brace herself for paparazzi and reporters, leaning on her professional experience to help her navigate the few steps from door to car.
“I’m sorry, I can’t talk to you,” she told a cameraman in March 2019 in a video posted by TMZ. “You can follow me around all day if you want, but I just can’t comment right now. But thank you for your time.”
Even when her day’s agenda contained the truly aberrant—a trip to a Boston federal courthouse in April 2019 for a six-minute appearance that saw her and Mossimo waive their right to a preliminary hearing and agree to several pretrial conditions—she handled it in much the same way she’s dealt with the countless other public appearances she’s made over the course of her four decade Hollywood career.
The couple traveled across the country via private jet “because Mossimo wanted to,” an insider told E! News. “He is mortified by this whole thing and wants to avoid unwanted attention in public.”
But as they scaled the steps of the courthouse, the oversized gathering of cameras and fans made it clear that slipping under the radar wasn’t so much a possibility. And faced with the decision to lower her head and keep it moving as Huffman had done or acknowledge the intensity of the situation, Lori shifted into celebrity mode, signing autographs for those that had come out to show their support.
“She was obviously extremely nervous and the actress side of Lori came out. She doesn’t know how else to be in public,” the insider explained. “Her natural reaction was to just smile and try to be light-hearted. She’s always been so well loved and charming, that’s the part she knows how to play in public.”
With her entire world rotated on its axis, sticking to the tried-and-true whenever possible was the only thing that felt right. “She’s trying to keep a somewhat regular schedule—going to yoga and Pilates and seeing friends for lunch,” an insider told People last year. “She is very faith-based, and she knows her faith will get her through this.”
Thus far her relationship with God has proven stronger than some of the friendships she’s formed in L.A., a part of the country she’s called home since landing on Full House, the breakout gig that came after she spent her teen years as one of the youngest cast member on soap opera The Edge of Night.
“Lori and Mossimo are finding out quickly who their real friends are,” an insider told People. “It’s not like they are the victims of a crime. They are the crime. Many of their friends don’t want to be associated with them right now.”
But count her most Hollywood of pals—her Fuller House costars—among those refusing to reach for a cheap Aunt Becky joke.
Candace Cameron Bure, whose own daughter Natasha Bure, 22, is close in age to Lori’s girls, seemed to speak for the entire clan at the 2019 Kids’ Choice Awards.
“Where there’s a lot of heart, there’s a lot of love—and a loving family sticks together no matter what,” she said standing alongside Jodie Sweetin and Andrea Barber to accept the blimp-shaped trophy for Favorite Funny TV Show. “They stick together through the hard times, they support each other, they encourage one another, they pray for each other, and they stand by their side no matter how tough it gets.”
Questioned further about the situation on Today, Cameron Bure, once again, declined to throw her yoga buddy under the bus, telling Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford, “You know, it’s too personal to us, and you never want to talk about someone that’s such a dear and close friend. But I think, I’ve already said that we are family, and we stand by each other and pray for each other, and we’ll always be there for each other.”
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It’s a pact Danny Tanner himself is in on. Appearing on Today in April 2019, Bob Saget opted not to share his thoughts on the specifics of the case. “I will say that I love her and I will say that, no comment,” he said. “It’s a personal thing, it’s a personal thing…it’s a strange time…and, what do you say?”
John Stamos has also refused to pile on his costar, a woman he once mused could have been the one to get away. “I want to wait until the trial happens, if it does, or whatever the result is, and then talk about it,” he said in an August 2019 interview with GQ. “Whatever happened…I’m pretty sure that the punishment is not equal to the crime, if there was a crime.”
An insider told E! News her daughters are also members of Team Lori, this despite Olivia watching her influencer empire crumble to the ground in a matter of hours. Having initially launched her YouTube channel at the age of 14, she’d built up a presence so robust it appeared a college degree might not be necessary to secure a future as charmed as her childhood.
“She started a YouTube channel around makeup and beauty and now she’s an ambassador for Sephora and she wants to have her own makeup line one day and she’s totally moving in that direction, but she started that channel on her own. She did it all herself,” Lori boasted to Salon in 2018. “I laugh. She’s a one-woman production company. She hosts the show. She edits the show. She adds the music. She does the graphics. She comes up with the content. She produces the whole thing.”
But as details of the admissions scandal emerged, companies fell out of Olivia’s growing portfolio like dominoes, the teen losing endorsement gigs with TRESemmé and Princess Polly and watching as the makeup palette she had recently released with Sephora was discontinued.
An inevitable rough patch followed, but mom and daughter have since come back together, Olivia making frequent trips home despite moving out last May. “Olivia has expressed that she has forgiven her parents and they are currently on much better terms,” an insider tells E! News. “She knows they were coming from a place of love and wanted the best for her and her sister Bella, but Olivia needed time to process what was going on.” (Another source counters that “things were never bad between Olivia and her parents.”)
Either way, more than a year later, their relationship has settled into a new normal. Says the insider, “Olivia is very close to her mom and knows that Lori needs her support during this time. It is still very tense in the household, but they are all managing and trying to say positive.”
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Because while the family is clocking a lot of together time, their days bear little resemblance to the sun-soaked weekends they enjoyed when the girls were young.
“It was great when they were little,” Loughlin said during a 2016 BUILD Series panel for her and Bella’s Hallmark holiday film Every Christmas Has A Story. “I loved Sunday afternoons so much…because we’d get up in the morning and we’d stay in our pajamas and they’d just play together by the hour and I would give them lunch and they’d go back and play. It was just so nice, we didn’t do a lot playdates; it was just our little group. It was lovely.”
Now the atmosphere surrounding the family is heavy with worry about what comes next—a burden that’s put strain on their marriage. Though insiders are adamant the longtime pair have no intention of splitting up, there’s little doubt this has been their toughest year of marriage yet, the sleepless nights and stressful days bringing the “for worse” portion of their vows into sharp focus.
“There’s a rift between Lori and Mossimo,” a source told E! News. “He is completely mortified by this whole thing and she is putting on a happy face and acting like everything will be OK.”
For Lori, seeking out the silver lining is a habit that’s been ingrained for decades. Asked by a fan at the BUILD Series how she manages to maintain a positive outlook, she replied, “I think it’s just my attitude in life and I’m going to say it has to do with my parents and how I was raised. My mom and dad were always really positive people and my mom always said, every day, ‘Count your blessings.’ I think I always go back to that. Even when I feel like maybe I’m under a lot of pressure or a lot of stress or the day’s getting my down…I always do stop and think, OK, count my blessings.”
But now, even with all efforts put forth toward a sunny disposition, seeking out those moments of gratitude has been difficult. “She is spending a lot of quiet time at home and staying out of the public eye,” says the confidante. “She feels like when she goes out there is always a spin or a story. She feels like whatever she does it’s going to be spun into the wrong thing.”
So all that was left was to hope against hope that things will turn out as right as possible.
That started with a mother of an apology during her August sentencing session. “I ignored my intuition and allowed myself to be swayed from my moral compass,” Lori began. “I thought I was acting out of love for my children but in reality it only underlined and diminished my daughter’s abilities and accomplishments. More broadly and more importantly, I now understand that my helped exacerbate existing inequalities in society generally and the higher education system more specifically.”
Having accepted that wrongdoing, she continued, “That realization weighs heavily on me and while I wish I could go back and do things differently, I can only take responsibility and move forward. I have great faith in God and I believe in redemption and I will do everything in my power to redeem myself and use this experience as a catalyst to do good and give back for the rest of my life.”
(Originally published April 10, 2019 at 12:30 p.m. PT)