Fashion Designer Mossimo Giannulli and Wife Accused of Paying Bribes to Get Daughters Into USC

Los Angeles fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli and his wife were named in a massive federal indictment accusing wealthy individuals of paying bribes to get their children into prestigious universities.

In a federal criminal complaint unsealed on March 12, prosecutors in Massachusetts, California, Texas, Florida and North Carolina accused 13 coaches, 33 parents and various academic test givers of being involved in a scheme to get under-performing students into elite schools across the country.

The indictment, which covers activity that started in 2011, included accusations of bribes to get students into Yale University, Stanford University, the University of California, Los Angeles, and Georgetown University. Sometimes bribes were paid to test-takers to help students cheat on entrance exams or to test givers who gave students answers to the tests or even corrected their incorrect answers afterward, court files revealed.

Among those named in the bribery scandal were Giannulli and his actress/wife, Lori Loughlin, charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Giannulli was arrested at his home and taken into custody on March 12, said a spokesman from the U.S. attorney's office. He later appeared before a federal magistrate where he was ordered to appear in federal court in Boston on March 29. He was ordered released on $1 million bail.

Loughlin, who was out of town when her husband was arrested, turned herself in on Wednesday, March 13, and appeared before a federal magistrate. She also was released on $1 million bail.

Giannulli and his wife are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters – Isabella Rose and Olivia Jade – into the University of Southern California by being designated as recruits to the USC crew team even though they did not participate in crew, court documents said.

In e-mails sent back and forth in 2016 between Giannulli and a person identified only as a “cooperating witness,” Giannulli wrote: “We just met with [our older daughter’s] college counselor this a.m. I’d like to maybe sit with you after your session with the girls as I have some concerns and want to fully understand the game plan and make sure we have a roadmap for success as it related to [our daughter] and getting her into a school other than ASU [Arizona State University]!”

A few months later, the cooperating witness sent an email to Giannulli informing him that his oldest daughter, Isabella Rose, had academic qualifications that were at or just below the low end of USC’s admission standards.

Court files show that Giannulli then agreed in an email to the cooperating witness to use bribes to facilitate Isabella Rose’s admission to USC as a recruited crew coxswain, even though she did not row competitively or otherwise participate in crew.

USC’s senior women’s athletic director, Donna Heinel, then presented Isabella Rose to the USC subcommittee for athletic admissions “as a purported crew recruit,” the indictment said. At the meeting, the subcommittee approved her conditional admission to the university.

Two days later, the cooperating witness sent an email to Giannulli telling him to send a $50,000 payment to Heinel, who was taken into custody the day the indictment was released. Later a $200,000 payment was sent to the Key Worldwide Foundation, a non-profit organization.

After that, Giannulli and his wife wrote in an email that they would need similar help with their younger daughter, Olivia Jade, who was later admitted to USC.

William Singer of Newport Beach, Calif., who was the alleged mastermind behind the scams, was charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Singer owned and operated the Edge College & Career Network, known as The Key. It is a for-profit college counseling and preparation business. He also served as the chief executive of the Key Worldwide Foundation.

Also charged is Donna Heinel, the USC senior women's athletic director; John Vandemoer, the head sailing coach at Stanford University; Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith, the former head soccer coach at Yale University; and Mark Riddell, a counselor at a private school in Bradenton, Fla.

Mossimo Giannulli once owned the Mossimo brand, which was sold for years at Target stores. In 2006, the brand was sold for $119 million to Iconix Brand Group.