Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli’s defense in the ongoing college admissions scandal just got a boost thanks to a cache of newly released emails obtained by Fox News between the famous couple and a representative for the University of Southern California.
The documents contain emails that appear to be somewhat solicitous in nature with the university offering Giannulli a special tour of the campus both for him and his eldest daughter as well as her application to the university being “flagged” in the hopes of securing her as a student. Meanwhile, Loughlin and Giannulli were allegedly working with scam mastermind William “Rick” Singer in an effort to get their daughters recruited as part of the university’s crew team despite them never participating in the sport.
Loughlin and Giannulli are among the more than a dozen parents still fighting the charges against them in the scandal. As a trial looms, the couple is making the case that they had reason to believe the money they’re accused of paying as bribes was actually legitimate donations to USC. The new emails help make the case that the university has a culture of mixing admissions conversations with fund-raising conversations.
“It's been a while and fall has now arrived so I just wanted to check in and see if your daughter is continuing with the admissions process at USC,” an email to GIannulli from an unnamed USC official reads. “Please let me know if I can be at all helpful in setting up a 1:1 opportunity for her, customized tour of campus for the family, and/or classroom visit? I'd also be happy to flag her application.”
Giannulli responded by saying that they were “squared away.”
A follow-up email from the official added: “On another note, would you be interested in connecting to discuss your own involvement with USC? So much has changed since you were a student. I'd love to be able to update you on the amazing stuff that's happening. How about meeting in your area on Oct 3rd, 4th or 5th?”
Giannulli politely rebuffed the offer, noting that he had people that kept him up-to-date. The official responded again with another potentially solicitous offer.
“That's great! If you'd ever like to discuss the impact your philanthropy or participation in our mentorship programs might have on our students and community, please let me know. Alumni support of cancer research, climate science, social justice programs, and the arts and humanities, among other areas, is critical.”
With that, Giannulli forwarded the exchange to his wife writing, “The nicest I’ve been at blowing off somebody.”
In a statement provided to Fox News, the university denied offering Giannulli anything out of the ordinary.
“What was being offered to the Giannullis was neither special nor unique. Tours, classroom visits and meetings are routinely offered. The primary purpose of a flag is to be able to track the outcome of the admission review process. It is not a substitute for otherwise being qualified for admission to USC,” the statement reads.
Prior to the email dump, the couple filed a motion for the government to disclose more evidence in the case in an effort for them to prove that the payments characterized as bribes were thought to be legitimate donations. It seems highlighting USC’s admissions practices may play a big part in that defense strategy. However, as "Entertainment Tonight" notes, prosecutors have hinted that the email exchange demonstrates Giannulli and Loughlin rejecting the legitimate approach in favor of working with Singer.
Loughlin and Giannulli previously pleaded not guilty to expanded charges of bribery brought against them in October along with 11 other parents swept up in the scandal. The duo has been accused of arranging a total collective payment of $500,000 to Singer to get their daughters, OIivia Jade and Isabella, recruited to USC as athletes on the crew team.
The charge of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The couple was previously hit with charges of money laundering and conspiracy that could land them behind bars for 40 years if convicted on all of them.