Lori Loughlin: How Full House's beloved aunt Becky ended up as an accused in a nationwide college bribery scam

The 'When Calls the Heart' star is currently knee-deep in the wide-scale college admissions scandal and will be expected to go to trial starting October 5, 2020


                            Lori Loughlin: How Full House's beloved aunt Becky ended up as an accused in a nationwide college bribery scam
Lori Loughlin (Getty Images)

Lori Loughlin is a name we've been hearing often in the past year after news of their involvement in the college admissions scandal broke out. At least 50 other individuals, including actress Felicity Huffman, were busted at the hands of the FBI for bribing their way through the entrance exams. The 'When Calls the Heart' actress and her fashion-designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli are facing up to 50 years in prison for the cheating scandal. They have been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud, honest services mail fraud, conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The couple has pleaded not guilty to all charges. 

Still, the headlines were a shocker to most of us when the news of the scandal broke out. We grew up watching 'Full House' where Loughlin played the endearing aunt Rebecca 'Becky' Katsopolis. Loughlin's career spanning over 30 decades has seen her playing some pretty iconic, loveable roles in wholesome projects. She built an admirable reputation for herself through her work, so its apt to say some of us just might have been in denial at the scam.

Here's a breakdown of Loughlin's prolific career and how she found herself in the smack dab center of a federal scandal.

Started acting from a young age

Lori Loughlin on 'Brotherhood for Justice' in 1986. It also starred Kiefer Sutherland, Keanu Reeves and Billy Zane (Wikimedia Commons)

Lori Anne Loughlin was born and raised in New York City and started modeling at the tender age of 11 after she expressed her pursued interests in acting to her parents. Her first stint as an actress came to her at age 15 where she played Jody Travis on ABC's soap opera 'The Edge of Night' from 1980 to 1983.  For about five years after that, she appeared in several feature films and television guest spots.

From 1988 to 1995, Loughlin was cast to play Rebecca Donaldson in the ABC sitcom 'Full House'  the role that catapulted her to fame. She was introduced in the show as Danny Tanner's (Bob Saget) co-host on Wake Up, San Fransisco and later became Jesse Katsopolis' (John Stamos) wife.  She is also prominently known for her role in Hallmark Channel's 'Meet my Mom', 'When Calls the Heart and 'Garage Sale Mystery.'

Personal life

Loughlin was married to investment banker Michael R Burns and they divorced in 1996. On Thanksgiving of 1997, she eloped with fashion designer, Mossimo Giannulli whom she had met in 1995. Giannulli has an eponymous clothing line with Target. The two share daughters Isabella Rose and Olivia Jade, and Loughlin is also the stepmother to Giannulli's son from a previous relationship. 

College admissions scandal

Lori Loughlin exits the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse after appearing in Federal Court to answer charges stemming from college admissions scandal on April 3, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Getty Images)

On March 12, 2019, Loughlin and Giannulli were among 50 people who were charged by the Justice Department of the U.S is a wide-scale nationwide college admissions scandal, later coined 'Operation Varsity Blues'. The couple was accused of paying a hefty sum of money as a bribe, which was disguised as a donation to the Key Worldwide Foundation, to get their daughters onto the University of Southern California crew team. This got them a college admission, although their daughters had absolutely no affiliation with the sport, nor would they participate in the team. 

How did this happen, and could dear aunt Becky be truly capable of such a thing? 

An episode of 'Full House' that aired on January 26, 1993, comes to mind at this instance. The episode titled, 'Be True to Your Preschool', saw Aunt Becky and Uncle Jesse attempting to 'fast track' the education of their twin sons, Nicky and Alex. The couple decided to enter false information in the application form for their children to get accepted into a prestigious pre-school. So we think we know where Loughlin may have derived inspiration from. 

Several reports throughout the months after the scandal made headlines even said that Loughlin was utterly in denial about the fact that she had done anything wrong.

On March 13, 2019, the couple surrendered themselves to the federal authorities in LA and were released after a $1 million bail was posted. Loughlin was forced to surrender her passport and agreed to restrict her travel, as part of the release conditions. 

As a result, Loughlin was fired from all of her ongoing and future projects at Hallmark Channel and was also dropped from Netflix's 'Fuller House'. Likewise, Target issued a statement saying they were ceasing all relations with Giannulli's line 'Mossimo', saying in a statement “We haven’t had a working relationship with Mossimo Giannulli in over a decade and we no longer carry any Mossimo branded products at Target.”

Loughlin and Huffman, who was also among those accused in the admissions scandal, were then hit with a $500 billion lawsuit. Jennifer Kay Toy sued them and dozens of others involved in the scam because she was certain her son suffered the ramifications of their bribery, by not being admitted to several colleges that he had applied to in the state. She said, "the actions of those implicated in the scheme prevented her son, Joshua Toy, from being admitted to several colleges ensnared in the scandal."

Olivia Jade Giannulli and Lori Loughlin (Getty Images)

The couple was first charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud but on April 9, 2019, they were slapped with more severe charges and they each carried a sentence of 20 years imprisonment. So, Loughlin and her husband could potentially be facing a 40-year prison sentence.

A juicy detail that emerged amid the scandal involving the couple was the encounter between Giannulli and Olivia Jade's high-school guidance counselor at the time when the latter questioned the teenager's 'rowing credentials'. Later, it was also revealed that Olivia Jade didn't even fill out her USC application. Instead, it was William 'Rick' Singer, the man in charge of the whole scam, that got it filled out for her after Loughlin contacted him regarding the same. The guidance counselor, however, could be called to stand as a witness when the case goes to trial.

In September 2019, rumors emerged that Loughlin and Giannulli's relationship had hit rock bottom amid the scandal and they could potentially be heading towards a divorce, but they were later rubbished.

At the end of October 2019, former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani said to People that Isabella Rose and Olivia Jade could also be charged for their role in the scandal.  “At a minimum, the daughters will be witnesses in a trial against their parents, but they could also be charged as defendants,” he said to People.

Loughlin and Giannulli plead not guilty, despite prosecutors warning them that they could face more charges and a long prison sentence if they don't plead guilty. Their potential prison sentence could add up to 50 years.  

In February 2020, spokesperson for the US Attorney's office, Massachusetts, said Loughlin and Giannulli would be expected to go to trial starting October 5. 

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