Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Parents facing college bribery charges seek loopholes in prosecutors case

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“Full House” actor Lori Loughlin, former TPG private equity executive Bill McGlashan and a dozen other parents ensnared in the U.S. college cheating scandal assailed the government’s case in a flurry of court filings Wednesday as they seek dismissal of charges including money laundering and fraud.

Defense lawyers took particular aim at a centerpiece of the government’s case — a court-authorized wiretap that FBI agents used to listen in on phone calls the parents had with Rick Singer, the admitted mastermind of the scheme.

The parents also argued that their cases don’t belong in Boston federal court because their alleged crimes weren’t committed in Massachusetts. Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a clothing designer who’s also charged, are residents of Southern California, while McGlashan lives in Northern California.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston is “lumping defendants together in a single conspiracy, alleging cherry-picked acts that are unrelated to the conspiracy’s objective, and fabricating ties to this district through the unilateral conduct of a government cooperator,” defense lawyers said in a filing.

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Loughlin, McGlashan and the other parents said the wiretapped conversations with Singer should be off-limits as evidence because the government can’t show that Singer was physically in Massachusetts when the calls were made. They claim prosecutors made misrepresentations to judges when obtaining the wiretaps.

“It is telling that, after approximately three months of monitoring Singer’s calls, the government was unable to identify a single relevant call placed to or from Massachusetts,” the defense lawyers wrote.

Loughlin and Giannulli are accused of paying $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into University of Southern California as phony crew stars. Prosecutors say McGlashan paid $50,000 for a confederate of Singer to secretly correct his son’s ACT answers and schemed to pay $250,000 to get his son into USC as a purported football recruit, though he didn’t go through with that part of the alleged plot.

The 14 parents are slated to go to trial in two groups, with the first trial scheduled to begin in July.

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Separately, a former USC admissions official agreed Wednesday to plead guilty in Los Angeles to charges that he sold slots to unqualified international students. Hiu Kit David Chong, 36, admitted that he collected thousands of dollars for helping the students win admission with false transcripts showing inflated grades, phony letters of recommendation and fraudulent personal statements, prosecutors said in a statement.

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