"Full House" star Lori Loughlin was one of 11 parents hit with additional charges in connection to the sweeping college cheating scandal, officials said Monday – the same day TMZ reported the actress could opt for a plea deal.
Loughlin, her fashion-designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, and 9 others were charged for conspiracy to commit federal program bribery "by bribing employees of the University of Southern California (USC) to facilitate their children’s admission," the Department of Justice said in a press release.
"In exchange for the bribes, employees of the university allegedly designated the defendants’ children as athletic recruits – with little or no regard for their athletic abilities – or as members of other favored admissions categories," the release stated.
The parents are part of a vast conspiracy ring that came to light in March where more than 50 parents were charged in a federal investigation, now known as "Varsity Blues."
The increased charges were announced the day after four parents, including three former CEOs, pleaded guilty to charges related to the case. One other person, the former head of an elite Texas tennis academy, revealed he, too, will submit a plea.
Meanwhile, TMZ reported earlier Tuesday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office might be more inclined to offer Loughlin a plea bargain in the wake of fellow actress and "Varsity Blues" parent Felicity Huffman’s light sentence of 14 days behind bars.
Huffman was sentenced in September to two weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to have her daughter’s SAT scores fixed in 2017. She pleaded guilty in May and reported to the Federal Correctional Institution in Dublin, California on Tuesday.
She is due to be released on Oct. 27, just shy of her 14-day sentence, according to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator.
Loughlin and her husband are accused of paying approximately $500,000 to create nonexistent positions for their daughters on the University of Southern California’s crew team, even though neither had ever taken part in the sport. They pleaded not guilty in April.
But the probation department's sentencing report indicates Huffman's actions – rigging test scores – affected the other applications, whereas Loughlin's bribe didn't have as big an impact, according to TMZ.
Federal prosecutors are growing "worried it will become an embarrassment for the office if Lori goes to trial, gets convicted and gets a short sentence," TMZ reported, adding that the "U.S. Attorney is open to plea discussions, and that is far more likely now that a possible sentence for Lori could be measured in weeks and not years."
Loughlin's attorney did not immediately respond to FOX Business' request for comment.
Besides Huffman, several other parents who have pleaded guilty have since been sentenced including:
- California winemaker Agustin Hunees Jr. – who paid one of the highest sums out of parents sentenced so far – was sentenced to five months behind bars for spending $300,000 to get his daughter into USC.
- Los Angeles real estate developer Robert Flaxman, 63, who was sentenced to one month in prison for paying $75,000 to fix on his daughter's college entrance exam. He copped to the guilty plea in May to one count of fraud and conspiracy.
- Devin Sloane, the founder of a water treatment company who paid $250,000 to get his son into USC as a fake water polo was sentenced to four months in prison and was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and pay a fine of $95,000 for his role in the scandal.