The high-profile faces of a college admissions scandal – a Hollywood actor and her fashion designer husband – have been sentenced to two and five months, respectively, in prison after pleading guilty of bribing their daughters’ way into prestigious schools.
Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli were sentenced after a judge accepted their plea deal in federal court via videoconferencing because of the coronavirus pandemic.
U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton also sentenced Loughlin to two years of supervised release, during which time she must complete 100 hours of community service, and she must pay a fine of $150,000. Giannulli was also sentenced to two years of supervised release, during which time he must complete 250 hours of community service, and he was fined $250,000, according to a Justice Department release.
The pair and several other rich and famous parents were caught in a scheme in which parents paid huge sums to a middleman to get their children into colleges and universities on fabricated sports abilities, like rowing, tennis and water polo.
The universities included Yale, Stanford, Georgetown, Northwestern and the University of Southern California.
The case broke in March 2019 when the Justice Department identified 33 parents accused of paying to have the admissions documents of their sons and daughters fixed, such as having standardized tests taken for the student or faking test results to show exemplary scores.
The multilevel, yearslong scam uncovered by the Justice Department reflected a desire expressed worldwide: to be educated at the best American institutions.
William “Rick” Singer of Newport Beach, California, who pleaded guilty of orchestrating the scam and was named as a cooperating witness, earned more than $25 million by connecting parents and their children with test administrators and college coaches who took their cut for endorsing bogus applicants, the Justice Department said.
Other coaches involved in the scandal pleaded guilty and cooperated with the Justice Department as well.
Xiaoning Sui, 48, of British Columbia, Canada, was sentenced to five months' time served and ordered to pay a fine of $250,000 in addition to forfeiting the $400,000 she paid to Singer. Sui paid to help gain her son’s entry to the University of California-Los Angeles, according to the Justice Department.
Douglas Hodge, who retired as chief executive of Allianz SE's California-based Pimco in 2016, was sentenced to nine months in prison, two years of supervised release, a $750,000 fine and 500 hours of community service.
Michelle Janavs, whose family made millions from Hot Pockets, a microwave snack, was sentenced to five months in prison, two years of supervised release, 200 hours of community service and a $250,000 fine. Janavs pleaded guilty of paying $300,000 in bribes so her daughters could attend the University of Southern California as beach volleyball recruits.
Los Angeles businessman Devin Sloane, who faked images depicting his son as a water polo star, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four months in prison for using bribery to get his son into college. The photos were taken in the family’s backyard pool and altered.
Sloane paid a fixer $250,000 to get his son, Matteo, into the University of Southern California, the elder Sloane’s alma mater.
"We're not talking about donating a building so a school is more likely to take your daughter or son," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in the Boston office of the Justice Department. "We're talking ... bribed college officials."
“Let me tell you the amount of times I’ve wanted to put a medal on a parent’s neck at the Science Fair instead of on the child’s because that parent said, ‘Oh, I really think we should be able to help our child in academics, so I did a lot on this Science Fair project,' ” said an exasperated Principal Gerry Brooks of Liberty Elementary School in Lexington, Kentucky, in an April 2019 video that reached more than 9 million viewers, of whom nearly 10,000 made comments in agreement.
“Everybody is just so surprised about this,” Brooks said. “You know who’s not surprised? Every educator in the whole world. Because this happens every day in our schools.”