Lori Loughlin pleads ignorance: Felt ‘manipulated’ in college scam, thought she was ‘breaking rules, not laws,’ source tells ET

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 3: Actress Lori Loughlin, in tan at right, and her husband Mossimo Giannulli, in green tie behind her, leave the John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on April 3, 2019. Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among 13 parents scheduled to appear in federal court in Boston Wednesday for the first time since they were charged last month in a massive college admissions cheating scandal. They were among 50 people - including coaches, powerful financiers, and entrepreneurs - charged in a brazen plot in which wealthy parents allegedly schemed to bribe sports coaches at top colleges to admit their children. Many of the parents allegedly paid to have someone else take the SAT or ACT exams for their children or correct their answers, guaranteeing them high scores. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
(FILE PHOTO by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

On Monday disgraced Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin and her husband pleaded not guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, making them among the first suspects involved with the college admissions “bribing” scandal to fight back.

Last week fellow disgraced Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman and 13 other parents pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit fraud. Because of the Loughlin’s refusal to toe the line, a money laundering charge was added onto her case by prosecutors a day later.

Following the couple’s non-guilty plea Monday, a source close to them confirmed with Entertainment Today that Loughlin and her husband believe their alleged ignorance makes them innocent.

“[Lori and her husband] claim they were under the impression they might be breaking rules, but not laws,” the source said. “They feel they were manipulated by those involved and are planning that as part of their defense. They realize how serious the charges are, but feel that once the judge hears their story he will see they had no bad intentions.”

It’s unclear whether that defense will fly in court, especially given what the source said about “breaking rules, not laws.” There’s a reason “rules” and “laws” are technically synonyms …

That being said, they’re not the only ones who’ve posited a defense for their actions.

After the bribing scandal broke, Fox News Radio show host Tom Shillue argued that Loughlin and Huffman were just patsies and that the true culprits were both the fake charity they paid to get their children into certain schools and the schools themselves that’d been allowing such bribing operations to occur for years. He also blasted prosecutors for having run a sting operation on the parents.


“What exactly were we doing having a sting for these Hollywood celebrities? Why exactly were we doing this?”  he asked. “Prosecutors always go around and they collect the little fish, and they have them turn state’s evidence on the bigger fish. Well, they got the biggest fish in this game — this guy, Rick Singer, who was running a crime’s syndicate, and they used him as a confidential informant to record conversations and sting these parents. Are they really the big fish?”

Singer ran Key Worldwide Foundation, a charity that over the years had collected millions in contributions from wealthy parents desperate to get their children accepted into the top universities.

“I feel like these parents — they’re goofy, that’s for sure — but all they’re doing is getting caught up in a scam that is [perpetrated by] Rick Singer and also all of America’s colleges,” he added.

To the Fox Radio host, what’s happening is equivalent to prosecutors targeting cocaine users versus cocaine dealers. It just makes no sense, or so he’s continued to maintain.

“[T]hey (colleges) know this type of scamming goes on at the colleges, and now they’re claiming to be the victims. Well, I don’t think they are the victims. If you want to rope in the big criminals in this, you go after America’s universities who are perpetrating a fraud on the American people, not some mommy who’s nervous to get her kid into some good school.”

The Loughlins may want to consider hiring him as their attorney. His argument beats their “rules” vs “laws” defense. Even their own friends have warned them that their argument lacks merit.

“[Their friends] have explained to them that they cannot just plead ignorance,” Entertainment Today’s insider source said. “In the end, she trusts those who are advising her and somehow believes there is a chance she will go free.”

Originally she and her husband had faced a maximum of 20 years in prison. Thanks to the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, the couple now faces 40 years.

“When Lori heard the number of years she could spend in prison she broke down crying,” the source said. “The thought of being separated from her loved ones for years brought her to her knees. She has watched as the other families cut deals but her husband feels they are not guilty and should plead not guilty.”


According to TMZ, Huffman could wind up spending as little as four months in prison. Thanks to the money laundering charge that was added to their case, if convicted the Loughlins meanwhile would have to serve a minimum of two years in prison on their charges. Ouch.

“Lori still believed, in the end, she would just get a slap on the wrist. At this point, she is getting complete clarity and she’s scared and in terrible shape. The reality of this situation has finally hit her like a ton of bricks. It wasn’t until she was faced with [the] additional [charge] that she saw the true ramifications.”

The Loughlins nonetheless don’t look like they intend to back down.

“They in no way felt they were money laundering. They thought the money would be used for a donation and to benefit the school. Even so, this has been one of the toughest decisions of Lori‘s life,” the source said of the couple’s decision to plead not guilty on Monday.

The reaction on social media to the Loughlins pleading guilty has been almost entirely negative. It doesn’t help that, according to another source who spoke with E! News, the two genuinely believe they did nothing wrong.

“Lori really believes she isn’t guilty and that any parent would have done the same thing that she did if they were in that position,” the unnamed source said.



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