Actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli are reportedly claiming as their defense that they had no idea the scam's ringleader Rick Singer was going to use the money they paid him to get their daughters into USC under false pretenses.
The couple — who pleaded not guilty to bribery and fraud charges in relation to their alleged involvement in the college admissions scandal — thought they were just working with someone who was considered a college "facilitator" who helped hundreds of other kids get into the colleges they wanted, TMZ reported, citing a source.
According to the gossip site, Singer allegedly didn't tell Loughlin, 54, and Giannulli, 55, that their $500,000 was specifically being used to bribe the USC rowing coach. The parents were allegedly aware that Singer wanted photos of the teens — Olivia Jade and Isabella — on a rowing machine but reportedly didn't tell the couple what it would be for.
The girls' acceptance into USC reportedly hinged upon the fact that they supposedly were crew team recruits even though they never participated in the sport.
According to legal experts who spoke to Fox News, Loughlin and Giannulli's supposed defense is extremely weak.
“Claiming to have lacked the specific intent necessary to be convicted may be Ms. Loughlin’s only defense, albeit not a strong one given the pile of circumstantial evidence against her and her husband," said criminal defense attorney David P. Shapiro who does not represent either Loughlin or Giannulli. "That pile may likely turn into a mountain of evidence once more and more of the defendants flip in exchange for reduced sentences.”
"I would anticipate the [prosecutors] will seek to use the testimony of the former coach [Laura Janke], and others who may flip, to further develop their case against Ms. Loughlin and her husband," he added of Janke, who allegedly made a fake athletic profile for Loughlin and Giannulli's younger daughter Olivie Jade, and has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering, as well as testify, per the U.S. Attorney's Office.
“The government doesn’t have to prove that Loughlin and Giannulli knew what the payments were used for," said attorney Neama Rahmani, who has also not been retained by either Loughlin or Giannulli. "The fraudulent application to USC is enough to support the conspiracy charges. And there is more than enough circumstantial evidence to prove that they knew the payments were for an illicit or unlawful purpose."
"The U.S. Attorney’s Office can and will add additional charges if Loughlin and Giannulli do not plead soon, or charge their daughters. If they continue to deny the allegations and are convicted at jury trial, I expect them to be sentenced to years in federal prison," he added.
The former Hallmark star and the fashion designer were each arrested in March and released on $1 million bonds. They are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as crew team recruits, even though neither of them played the sport.
After rejecting a plea bargain, they were slapped with additional criminal charges of conspiracy and money laundering.
If convicted, the married couple may face up to 40 years in prison.
A rep for Loughlin did not immediately respond to Fox News' request for comment.