US Weekly

LORI'S DESPERATE PLEA

Sources tell Us the college admissions scandal is taking a toll on the disgraced actress - and on her marriage

- BY JAIME HARKIN

What a difference five months can make. In April, when

Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli made their first court appearance for their alleged involvemen­t in the college admissions scandal, the actress — looking chic in a camel pantsuit and a touch of lip gloss — cheerily told bystanders she was doing “great!” But her demeanor — and outfit — were far more solemn when she and Giannulli returned to court on Aug. 27. This time, a frowning Loughlin wore all gray, and remained tight-lipped as she held Giannulli’s hand and attempted to slip into the Boston courthouse unnoticed.

The disgraced star is finally grasping the seriousnes­s of her situation. Along with her fashion designer husband, the Full House alum, 55, is facing up to 40 years in prison for mail fraud and money laundering after allegedly paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters, Isabella, 20, and Olivia Jade, 19, into the prestigiou­s University of

Southern California by having them pretend to be rowing recruits. Since her March arrest, Loughlin’s world has been slowly crumbling around her. And now, sources tell Us, things have gone from bad to worse. Her 22-year marriage to Giannulli, 56, is starting to unravel, and her relationsh­ip with her girls is on shaky ground. All the while, the strained couple’s legal bills are mounting as they await their fate. “Lori,” says an insider, “is really scared.”

MARITAL DISCORD

During their Aug. 27 hearing, Loughlin and Giannulli put on a united front and waived their right to separate attorneys. But sources tell Us that behind the scenes, their marriage is in trouble. “Their daughter Bella is extremely concerned they’re going to get divorced,” says one insider. Most recently, they butted heads over whether they should take a private jet to their court appearance. “The couple was advised by their lawyers not to,” says an insider. Lori, desperate to project an image of humility, agreed, “but Mossimo insisted, saying it would be a ‘zoo’ if they flew commercial.”

Loughlin was already angry with Giannulli after he recommende­d they reject the plea deal prosecutor­s offered in April, says a source. (Many of the other parents charged in the case, including fellow actress Felicity Huffman, took the deal.) “Lori regrets not doing what Felicity did,” says the insider. Adds another source, “Lori was inclined to take the deal, but Mossimo said it would ruin both of their careers.” According to the insider, Giannulli feels he and Loughlin have been unfairly targeted by the federal government

because of their wealth — together, they’re reportedly worth an estimated $100 million. And another source says he’s convinced “they’ve done nothing wrong.” But that indignant attitude has only served to hurt them, and a source says pals want Loughlin to cut Giannulli loose. “Her friends think she should leave him,” says the insider. “But Lori refuses and says the ordeal has made them stronger.”

BROKEN BOND

Things between Loughlin and her daughters aren’t much better. Though both wished their mom a happy birthday on Instagram in July, “things aren’t fully healed between them,” says an insider. Vlogger and beauty influencer Olivia Jade is worried she won’t be able to rebuild her brand, and it’s left her “resentful,” says the source. She’s also been the victim of online bullying. “That’s devastatin­g for Lori,” says the insider.

Despite her attorney’s pleas to stay off social media, Olivia recently put up a defiant photo of her holding up two middle fingers, with an angry caption seemingly directed at media outlets. “Her lawyer’s begged her not to post anything,” says an insider, “because prosecutor­s are going to question her about it and show everything to the jury.”

That jury will likely hear testimony from both daughters, and with Olivia Jade seemingly siding with her father on the private jet issue, the growing family rift may only deepen. Says the insider, “They’ll essentiall­y be forced to take sides when they testify.”

THE PLOT THICKENS

And the prosecutio­n is out for blood. According to an insider, they’re working 18-hour days in a private, locked “bunker room” as they prepare for trial. The source says the taped calls they have between William “Rick” Singer — the mastermind behind the operation — and the couple are “extremely incriminat­ing.” Loughlin and Giannulli’s line of defense is that they believed the money they paid Singer was a donation to USC — but having Isabella and Olivia pose for photos on rowing equipment (neither actually participat­ed in the sport) suggests otherwise. “The jury may find the donation defense hard to believe when they see those

LOUGHLIN’S FRIENDS THINK THE SITUATION WAS CONCOCTED BY HER HUSBAND. THEY DON’T LIKE HIM.” A SOURCE TELLS US

pictures,” says the source.

And opting to use the same attorneys may not help either. Former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani tells Us it’s a “terrible strategy,” adding that “usually one spouse is more culpable… but now their attorneys are prohibited from getting a more favorable outcome for the other.” Prosecutor­s’ current crackdown on Huffman and other parents doesn’t bode well for the couple. “They’re aiming for the highest prison sentence possible,” says an insider. Felicity — who’s due in court Sept. 13 — “has a lot of angst about her sentencing,” says another source. “But at least there will finally be closure. This ordeal has been incredibly humbling for her.”

Not so for Giannulli — who, says a source, “is expecting to be fully exonerated, and will refuse any other plea-deal offers.” Loughlin, on the other hand, would possibly take a plea if the opportunit­y arose, which seems unlikely at this point. “She’s asked her lawyers to negotiate a deal with home confinemen­t and no jail time, and she’s willing to pay a substantia­l fine, over $2 million,” says a source. The case has already cost the couple a pretty penny, says an insider, and they could be on the hook for

$25 million if there’s a lengthy trial.

REALITY BITES

Whatever the future holds for Loughlin, she’s no longer in denial. “She realizes the severity of her situation,” says an insider. Gone are the days of signing autographs and taking selfies with fans before a court appearance. “She spoke to an image consultant who carefully curated her outfit for her most recent court date,” says the source. “And she tried to sneak into the back of the courtroom.” Better late than never. “There’s real fear there,” says the insider. “She’s taking some responsibi­lity.”

 ??  ?? A stressedou­t-looking Loughlin arrives at court in Boston on
Aug. 27.
A stressedou­t-looking Loughlin arrives at court in Boston on Aug. 27.
 ??  ?? More than 50 parents stand accused of bribing and cheating their kids’ way into elite schools like USC, Yale
and Georgetown.
More than 50 parents stand accused of bribing and cheating their kids’ way into elite schools like USC, Yale and Georgetown.
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? Loughlin and Giannulli arriving at the Van Nuys airport in California via private jet on Aug. 28, after their Boston court
appearance.
Loughlin and Giannulli arriving at the Van Nuys airport in California via private jet on Aug. 28, after their Boston court appearance.

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