What Happened To The Parents Involved In The College Admissions Scandal

In March 2019, details from an investigation named "Operation: Varsity Blue" were made public, as told by Town and Country Magazine. An FBI investigation revealed that numerous parents, coaches, and administrators had engaged in the largest college cheating scam ever to be prosecuted by the Department of Justice. According to an affidavit posted by The Washington Post, starting in 2011, almost three dozen parents had paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their children into the top universities in the nation, such as Yale, Georgetown, and Stanford. The payments went toward falsifying their children's records, bribing officials to correct test scores, and falsely marking their children as recruited athletes.

The scam's ring leader, William Singer, faces up to 65 years in prison after pleading guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice. Even then, Singer was far from the biggest name in the scandal. Two of the biggest names in Hollywood, actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, both pleaded guilty for their roles in the operation.

Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli

According to Refinery 29, the "Full House" actress paid $500,000 to guarantee her daughters were accepted into the University of Southern California (USC). Both she and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded guilty to their roles in the operation. As told by CNN, the couple pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud, with Giannulli also pleading guilty to honest services wire and mail fraud.

Loughlin received a sentence of two months in prison, two years of supervised release, 100 hours of community service, and a $150,000 fine. Because Giannulli had more contact with Singer, directed the payments, and even confronted his daughter's guidance counselor about her fraudulent athletic career, he received the harsher sentence of five months in prison, a $250,000 fine, two years of supervised release, and 250 hours of community service.

The scandal led to Loughlin's removal from her role on the sequel series, "Fuller House," though the actress expressed interest in returning to acting in the future. According to Elle, six months after the scandal, both of the couple's children, Olivia Jade and Isabella Giannulli, were no longer students at USC. Seemingly working with their parents, the girls purportedly took pictures on a rowing machine to show they were recruited athletes, though neither rowed.

Felicity Huffman

According to Refinery 29, actress Felicity Huffman was the first parent to be sentenced for her part in the operation. She pleaded guilty to "using bribery and other forms of fraud to facilitate their children's admission to selective colleges and universities." The "Desperate Housewife" actress had paid William Singer $15,000 to falsify her daughter's SAT scores. Unlike Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannuli, Huffman's husband, actor William H. Macy, was not charged in the scam, possibly because of a lack of evidence or involvement.

And unlike Loughlin's daughters, Sophia Macy was unaware of the scam and even confronted her mother after the revelation, reportedly asking, "Why didn't you believe in me?" as told by Global News. She would eventually be accepted into Carnegie Mellon University's theater program. Huffman was sentenced to 14 days at the Federal Correctional Institution, a year of probation, a $30,000 fine, and 250 hours toward community service.

Other Parents

According to Decider, 24 of the 33 parents involved in the admissions scandal have served time in prison, as of March 2021. The sentences have run as low as a single day in prison for one parent to as high as nine months for another. The nine-month sentence was handed down to the former CEO of Pacific Investment Management Company, Douglas Hodge, after he pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, as told by the New York Times. Hodges paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to get his four children into USC.

Robert Zangrillo was able to avoid prison time after being pardoned by President Donald Trump, according to a Refinery 29 report. This came in large part because of associates in the White House who supported Zangrillo's plea for a pardon.