The college admission scandal is getting real.
Sure, we’ve LOLed at the Aunt Becky and Lynette Scavo memes, but it looks like Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman aren’t going to get off easy. Yes, Aunt Becky really could be headed from Fuller House to the big house. (Sorry, had to.)
News recently broke that Loughlin, Huffman and the other defendants named in the college admissions scandal have a very real chance of being sentenced to prison for what could be as little as a few months or up to 40 years, depending on the defendant. And yet, after seeing the news, some social media users seemed to echo Uncle Jesse’s slogan: “Have mercy.”
Probably an unpopular opinion here but people have been bribing in one form or another since the beginning of time to get their kids into choice schools. Aunt Becky does not need to spend the rest of her life in jail for getting caught. #scapegoat #CollegeAdmissionsScandal pic.twitter.com/dfXe52PQu3
— Halley Erhardt (@HalleyErhardt) April 9, 2019
Not be ignorant or anything but like can we take it easy on Lori Loughlin? She doesn’t deserve full on jail time with rapists and shit give her a crazy fine and maybe house arrest. She’s not a menace ….. we’ve all bribed someone somehow with something at some point
— Gabi (@Gabstizzle) April 9, 2019
But should we really be all that surprised that these celebrities, and the other individuals named in this complex web of fraud and Photoshop, are facing actual consequences for their actions? Let’s lay out the facts.
Desperate Housewives actor Huffman, who is accused of paying $15,000 to improve her daughter’s SAT score, is among the 13 parents and one coach who pled guilty on Monday.
“I am in full acceptance of my guilt, and with deep regret and shame over what I have done,” said Huffman in her first public statement since the FBI arrested her as part of the largest university admission scam in history. “I accept full responsibility for my actions and will accept the consequences that stem from those actions.”
Since Huffman pled guilty to the charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud, federal prosecutors will reportedly recommend she be sentenced to a year of supervised release and a $20,000 fine. The U.S. Attorney will also recommend a prison sentence on the “low end” of the sentencing range—which reportedly means between four and 10 months.
The next day, Loughlin—who has been criticized for smiling and signing autographs at her first court appearance—and 15 other parents were hit with an additional charge of money laundering. Other defendants include Loughlin’s husband Mossimo Giannulli, Vancouver philanthropist David Sidoo and Michelle Janavs, whose family developed Hot Pockets (i.e basically an IRL version of Gretchen Wieners). Loughlin and her husband have not yet publicly stated how they intend to plea.
The initial charges to commit mail fraud, honest services mail fraud and wire fraud could result in up to 20 years of jail time, three years of supervised release and up to a $250,000 fine. Adding on the money laundering charge, however, really ups the stakes, increasing the potential fines to $750,000 and the maximum jail time to 40 years in prison. And, according to CNN, prosecutors are defs going to push for jail time for all defendants.
So, is all of this going a bit over the top? Short answer: nope.
Former U.S. federal prosecutor Jacob Frenkel says it’s important to remember that the college admission scandal is about far more than parents wanting to help their kids get into college or university.
“There’s a difference between parents looking for a way to find an advantage and parents participating in a bribery scheme that undermines and corrupts the admissions process, may involve lying on tax returns, and concealing the nature of payments,” he told FLARE. “That constitutes criminal conduct.”
In response to the comments that defendants like Loughlin and Huffman don’t deserve jail time, Frenkel notes that online opinion doesn’t matter much here.
“Yes, certainly they’re going to be able to get, in the court of public opinion, some sympathy. But ultimately what matters is what happens in a court of law,” says Frenkel, who is now a white-collar defence attorney in Washington. “And we’re already seeing the difference between those who are accepting responsibility, who may have a chance at avoiding jail, and those who believe that their celebrity status may be driving a misplaced belief on what the outcome will be.”
In fact, Frenkel says that reading through the documents detailing the charges, it’s easy to see why the government considers these parents to have acted with criminal intent—and the consequences that such offences can carry are clearly outlined.
“Federal sentencing guidelines suggest that some of these parents not only should, but very well could end up in jail,” says Frenkel.
So while looking at the idea of wealthy parents facing decades of jail time for scamming their kids into college may like a whole lot at first, it is actually just the legal system functioning as it should. As Frenkel says, “This case is unique; that does not mean the conduct isn’t criminal.”
Sorry not sorry, Aunt Becky.