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story.lead_photo.caption Actress Lori Loughlin and husband, clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli, depart federal court in Boston in this April 3, 2019, file photo. The two were facing charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. ( AP/Steven Senne )

BOSTON -- Breaking their silence for the first time since their arrest, "Full House" star Lori Loughlin and fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli apologized Friday for using their wealth and privilege to bribe their daughters' way into the University of Southern California as rowing-crew recruits.

Accepting plea deals struck in May after the pair admitted paying $500,000, a judge sentenced Loughlin to serve two months behind bars while Giannulli was sentenced to five months.

Fighting back tears, Loughlin told the judge that her actions "helped exacerbate existing inequalities in society" and pledged to do everything in her power to use her experience as a "catalyst to do good." Her lawyer said she had begun volunteering with special-needs students at an elementary school.

"I made an awful decision. I went along with a plan to give my daughters an unfair advantage in the college admissions process and in doing so I ignored my intuition and allowed myself to be swayed from my moral compass," Loughlin said during the hearing held by videoconference because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an earlier hearing Friday, Giannulli, 57, told the judge that he "deeply" regrets the harm to his daughters, wife and others.

The couple's sentencing took place three months after they reversed course and admitted to participating in the college admissions cheating scheme.

They are among nearly 30 prominent parents to plead guilty in what federal prosecutors dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues," in which authorities uncovered bribes to get undeserving kids into college with rigged test scores or fake athletic credentials. "Desperate Housewives" actress Felicity Huffman served nearly two weeks behind bars last year after admitting to paying $15,000 to have someone correct her daughter's entrance exam answers.

Both Loughlin and Giannulli were ordered to surrender Nov. 19. U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said the prison terms stipulated by the plea deals are "sufficient but not greater than necessary punishment under the circumstances."

Under the plea deals -- unusual because the proposed terms were binding once accepted, instead of granting Gorton sentencing discretion -- Giannulli also will pay a $250,000 fine and perform 250 hours of community service. Loughlin will pay a $150,000 fine and perform 100 hours of community service.

They had insisted for more than a year that they believed their payments were "legitimate donations."

The couple funneled money through a sham charity operated by Rick Singer to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as crew recruits, even though neither was a rower, authorities said. Singer, who also has pleaded guilty, was expected to testify against them had they gone to trial.

The couple accused prosecutors of hiding crucial evidence that could prove the couple's innocence. Their about-face occurred shortly after the judge rejected their bid to dismiss the case over allegations of federal agents' misconduct.

The case shattered the clean image of Loughlin, 56, who gained fame for her role as the wholesome Aunt Becky in the sitcom "Full House" and later became queen of the Hallmark channel with her holiday movies and the series "When Calls the Heart."

Prosecutors said Giannulli deserves a tougher sentence because he was "the more active participant in the scheme," though Loughlin "was nonetheless fully complicit."


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