Two legal experts have revealed the prison time Lori Loughlin could be facing after getting hammered with money laundering charges for her participation in the college cheating scandal.
Lori Loughlin, 54, could face more than four years in prison now that she’s been hit with fresh charges in the college admissions scandal case, according to legal experts. The Fuller House star was slapped with conspiracy to commit money laundering and wire fraud charges on April 9, after failing to agree to a plea deal with prosecutors. The actress was already charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud on March 12 when the scandal first hit the news. The maximum penalty for that offense was 20 years in prison, although legal experts previously told us that Lori most likely would have received between two and two-and-a-half years for those alleged crimes. Now, after shunning a plea deal, she faces nearly double the time – more than four years – in prison. HollywoodLife spoke EXCLUSIVELY with two Massachusetts criminal defense attorneys, Edward Molari and Brad Bailey, who revealed exactly what kind of trouble Loughlin could now be facing.
Loughlin received the additional charges along with her husband of 21 years, Mossimo Giannulli, 55, and 14 other parents. The couple — who share daughters Isabella, 20, and Olivia Jade, 19 — “agreed to a pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC,” according to court documents.
HL: How much prison time could Lori Loughlin face with the additional money laundering and wire fraud charges she received?
Molari: “If the case proceeds, then the prosecution’s recommended sentence will usually increase, so if the prosecution was initially recommending a sentence of two to two-and-a-half years before these charges, now it is very likely that recommendation would go up if the case went forward.”
Bailey: “When money laundering is added to the underlying charge of wire fraud, she is looking at an advisory sentencing range of 37 to 46 months in prison. If aggravating factors are proven such as fraud by ‘sophisticated means’ or ‘sophisticated money laundering,’ then she could even be looking at 41 to 51 months. And even higher if other sentencing enhancements are also found to apply. By the way, like wire fraud, money laundering carries a maximum potential sentence of up to 20 years. However, the guideline ranges I have mentioned are the starting point from which the likely sentence is determined. (Note, if she accepts responsibility and pleads guilty then the ranges I mentioned get reduced to 27 to 33 months, or 30 to 37 months if aggravating factors are found.)”
HL: What does “sophisticated” money laundering mean?
Bailey: “It’s a term regarding [an] offense conducted that involves a greater level of planning or concealment than a typical fraud of the same nature. If established, it results in a sentence enhancement.”
HL: Why do you think Loughlin didn’t initially agree to a plea deal to prevent the additional charges?
Molari: “The lawyers involved have access to what I can only assume are vast quantities of evidence and they have to decide how compelling it is for one side or the other before they advise their clients about what to do. I have neither the access, nor (thankfully) the obligation of sorting through that evidence, to offer any kind of recommendation as to what Ms. Loughlin should do. She is paying her lawyers to do that job, so if she wants her money’s worth she should follow their direction, whatever it might be.”
Bailey: “Any good/experienced lawyer will base his/her advice on a thorough review of the evidence against her, and an assessment of its relative strengths and weaknesses, as well as the viability of all potential defenses.”
HL: Why is she being charged with money laundering? What exactly did she do?
Molari: “The money laundering statutes prohibit the use and concealment of the proceeds of crime. According to the reporting, the government alleges that Ms. Loughlin and her co-defendants made payments designed to appear to be charitable gifts, knowing they were really bribes, and did so for the purpose of concealing the criminal conspiracy.”
HL: Do you think Loughlin will definitely receive prison time?
Bailey: “Given the prospective sentencing ranges, it would appear likely; and almost certainly if she is convicted at trial. Her defense lawyers will argue hard against it.”
HL: Might there be anything Loughlin can do to lower her sentencing range?
Bailey: “If she ‘accepts responsibility’ and pleads guilty, her offense level is reduced by three points and will result in the lower advisory ranges of 27 to 33 months, or 30 to 37 months if aggravating factors are also found to apply.”
HL: Why did she get additional charges?
Molari: “As you can see from the ‘superseding indictments’ here — which are indictments that are brought in the same case, but not brought at the time the defendant is originally charged — the fact that someone is charged with one set of crimes does not mean the government cannot go back and charge more crimes based on the same conduct. This is common in federal court. Prosecutors will bring a few charges and then explain to the defendant that depending on how they handle the case there may be more charges to come; or not, particularly if they agree to a plea deal.”
HL: Can she still agree to a plea deal?
Molari: “Yes, she can still enter a plea agreement, but the added charges may (and probably do) increase her guidelines range, putting her in a weaker bargaining position.”
HL: What happens next for Loughlin?
Bailey: “An arraignment is next. It is presumed she will plead not guilty. The required production of discovery will begin no later than 28 days after arraignment.”
HL: Although an arraignment has not yet been scheduled, do you know when that might happen?
Bailey: “It will be scheduled at the convenience of the parties and by agreement. But I would be surprised if it were later than 30, or so, days from now.”
HL: If Loughlin is sentenced to federal prison, how much credit for good behavior could she accrue?
Bailey: “Federal inmates are eligible to receive 54 days good time credit for each year served, after the first full year of a given sentence. They are also eligible to serve the remainder of their sentence in a half-way house when they have the lesser of 10 percent of their overall sentence, or six months, left to serve.”