A federal judge on Thursday said actress Lori Loughlin will be among eight parents accused of participating in a vast U.S. college admissions bribery and fraud scheme to face the first trial to result from the scandal.

Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are among 15 parents fighting charges brought by federal prosecutors in Boston stemming from the U.S. college admissions scandal.

U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said the first group of those parents will face trial on Oct. 5, including Loughlin and her husband, while the remaining parents will face trial on Jan. 11, 2021.

Loughlin’s co-defendants at trial will include Gamal Abdelaziz, former president of Wynn Resorts Ltd’s Macau subsidiary, and Robert Zangrillo, founder of the private investment firm Dragon Global.

Vancouver-based businessman David Sidoo is among the group headed to trial next January.

Prosecutors have accused 53 people of participating in a scheme in which parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to use bribery and other forms of fraud to secure the admission of their children to top schools.

William (Rick) Singer, the consultant, pleaded guilty in March 2019 to charges he facilitated cheating on college entrance exams and helped bribe university sports coaches to present his clients’ children as fake athletic recruits.

Prosecutors allege that Loughlin and Giannulli agreed with Singer to pay $500,000 US in bribes to have their two daughters named as fake recruits to the University of Southern California crew team.

Ahead of Thursday’s hearing, lawyers for Loughlin and Giannulli asked Gorton to delay setting a trial, citing “devastating” new evidence — personal notes from Singer — that they said prosecutors wrongly withheld until now.

They said the evidence supports the couple’s claims that they believed their payments were legitimate donations that would go to the university, not bribes.

In the notes, Singer said the FBI told him to “tell a fib” by saying he told his clients their payments were bribes, not donations.

“It is exonerating information,” the couple’s attorney, William Trach, said in court.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen disputed that prosecutors wrongly withheld the evidence, saying Singer’s lawyer until recently claimed they were covered by attorney-client privilege.

Rosen also disputed that the notes were exonerating, saying that calling the payments a donation does not mean they were not a “quid pro quo.”

Gorton said he considered the defence’s claims “very serious” but said he would take them up later.

“This case needs to be resolved expeditiously by trial or otherwise,” he said.

Other parents have pleaded guilty in the case, including Desperate Housewives star Felicity Huffman, who was sentenced to two weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter’s SAT answers.

Michelle Janavs, whose father and uncle invented Hot Pockets turnovers, was sentenced by Gorton earlier this week to five months in prison.

Xiaoning Sui, who lives in Surrey, B.C, pleaded guilty to a single count of federal programs bribery in Boston’s federal court last week but has yet to be sentenced.

Mark Riddell, who pleaded guilty to fraud and money laundering charges after admitting to taking tests for prospective students, could face two to four years in prison when sentenced next month.

 

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