Is it possible that actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli might have some good news on their horizon as they prepare for trial? The couple is neck-deep in the FBI’s Operation Varsity Blues scandal, with a trial scheduled for October. A new allegation brought forward by the couple’s defense attorneys is found to be both troubling and disturbing by the judge.
Attorneys for Loughlin and Giannulli argued that their case should be thrown out after notes from Rick Singer, the college counselor at the center of this scandal became available. The notes show that the FBI told him to lie to his clients, wealthy parents like Loughlin and Giannulli willing to pay big bucks to secure college admission for their children, in order to prompt them into implicating themselves in the scam. In February their attorneys argued that the Department of Justice had withheld exculpatory evidence in the case.
Loughlin and Giannulli have pleaded not guilty from the beginning of this whole story, even after additional charges were filed against them. They have refused to cut a deal with prosecutors, unlike many of the other parents rounded up in this scandal. A new three-page memorandum from Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton demands the prosecution address the allegation. He isn’t disturbed quite enough to dismiss the trial yet, though. Gorton calls that a “drastic sanction”.
“In their motion to dismiss the indictment (Docket No. 971), defendants contend that the government’s failure 1) to disclose contemporaneous notes taken by Rick Singer and 2) to investigate his assertions of investigatorial misconduct in those notes warrant the extraordinary remedy of dismissal of the indictment,” his letter reads. “The government rejoins that although counsel should have produced Singer’s notes earlier, that mistake was neither willful nor prejudicial and does not merit any such drastic sanction.”
Judge Gorton’s words echo those previously made by the prosecution in which they denied acting in bad faith or that Singer’s notes were at all exonerating to the famous couple.
Aunt Becky and her clothing designer mogul husband Mossimo are charged with paying Rick Singer $500,000 to get their daughters, Isabella and Oliva Jade Giannulli, admitted to the University of Southern California. While they admit to paying Singer, they have said all along that the money was a donation to the school, not a bribe for admittance. Prosecutors have maintained that whether it is called a bribe or a donation, the payment was illegal. So, as their case stands right now, they are still going to trial and the government has some ‘splaining to do.
“The Court considered the allegations in Singer’s October notes to be serious and disturbing. While government agents are permitted to coach cooperating witnesses during the course of an investigation, they are not permitted to suborn the commission of a crime,” the note reads. “The government is therefore directed to respond specifically in its sur-reply to the allegations of investigatorial misconduct on October 2, 2018.”
Another person caught up in the arrests of 50 people in the FBI operation is going to plead guilty to accepting bribes. Jorge Salcedo of Los Angeles, a 47-year-old former UCLA men’s soccer coach will plead guilty to taking $200,000 in bribes. He admits to helping one male and one female student gain acceptance into UCLA as phony soccer recruits. He will plead guilty to a racketeering conspiracy charge.
Salcedo accepted $100,000 to help California couple Bruce and Davina Isackson get their daughter into UCLA as a bogus soccer recruit, prosecutors said. The Isacksons have also pleaded guilty and have been cooperating with authorities in the hopes of getting a lighter sentence.
Salcedo took another $100,000 bribe from the admissions consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer, to “recruit” the son of Xiaoning Sui of, Surrey, British Columbia, to his team, authorities said. Singer and Sui have also pleaded guilty.
Salcedo entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors on Sunday. In exchange for Slacedo’s cooperation, prosecutors are recommending 24 to 30 months in federal prison. He will also forfeit the bribe money.
In his plea agreement, which Salcedo signed Sunday, prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said they would recommend a sentence at the low end of a guideline range that calls for 24 to 30 months in federal prison. Salcedo agreed to forfeit $200,000, the sum he pocketed from two families whose children were admitted to UCLA as phony soccer players, prosecutors alleged. Salcedo’s attorney, Thomas Frongillo, declined to comment.
Salcedo tried to throw UCLA under the bus in defense of himself, claiming he was just doing what the university expected of him. He claims the system has been corrupted for a long time. In other words, he was going along to get along.
Prior to agreeing to plead guilty, Salcedo had tried to extract from his former employer some documents that his attorneys claimed would demonstrate UCLA was not a victim of a money-for-admissions scheme, but in fact was its “architect and orchestrator.” The school’s athletic department, they alleged in asking a judge to issue a subpoena, routinely endorsed the unqualified children of wealthy families in exchange for donations.
Salcedo’s attorneys said they intended to show at trial that various administrators had pressed UCLA coaches to endorse their children or otherwise intervened in the admissions process, including one incident in 2008, when a supervisor “pressured” Salcedo to recruit his son to the soccer team, they claimed.
UCLA’s attorneys asked a judge to reject the requested subpoena. Salcedo, they argued, was trying to conflate university fundraising with a bribery scheme that enriched no one but himself, selling off university benefits — two admissions slots and a partial athletic scholarship — that “were not Salcedo’s to give away for his own.” His subpoena, they said, “would serve no purpose other than to distract from the charges at hand.”
While Salcedo claims it was all just business as usual for UCLA, the fact is he willingly participated, remained employed with the university, and pocketed the money. This all points to the conclusion that Salcedo had no problem with the college admissions scam. He is no better than any of the other facility members of universities who passed over more qualified, deserving students seeking admission in order to cater to the children of the wealthy parents willing to fork over big money in exchange.
If the judge in Salcedo’s case, U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani, accepts his plea, he will become the sixth person to admit wrongdoing of the dozen college coaches and test administrators charged with conspiring to commit racketeering.