The man behind the largest college admissions scandal in U.S. history, William “Rick” Singer, was sentenced on January 4, 2023, to three and a half years in federal prison for helping wealthy and famous parents, including former Hallmark Channel star Lori Loughlin and actress Felicity Huffman, get their children admitted into the post-secondary schools of their choice through cheating and bribery. When authorities caught Singer leading the operation in 2018, he began to cooperate by providing information on Loughlin and others, allowing the FBI to record his conversations with his clients, which led to more than 50 people being convicted.
According to Reuters, Singer’s is the longest sentence issued among those involved, but would have been much longer if not for his “extensive cooperation.” The ruling puts the college admissions scandal back in the news a full two years after Loughlin was released from prison for her involvement in the scheme, and just her new network, Great American Family, begins promoting her first TV movie since her arrest. Here’s what you need to know:
Prosecutor Calls Scope of Scandal ‘Breathtaking’
At Singer’s Boston sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank said in court, “It was a scheme that was breathtaking in its scale and audacity. It has literally become the stuff of books and made-for-TV movies.”
Indeed, the revelations and arrests were so shocking in 2019 that the story has inspired a Lifetime movie, a Netflix documentary with Matthew Modine starring as Singer in reenactments, and multiple books unraveling the complicated scheme.
During an investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” agents discovered wealthy parents were paying Singer — a California college admissions consultant — large sums of money to help their kids get into elite schools including Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, Yale University, and Stanford University. Of the $25 million he received, Singer admitted to using $7 million to bribe college officials into admitting his clients’ kids.
In addition to going to prison, Reuters said Singer, 62, must turn over $19 million in forfeited assets, money and restitution to the Internal Revenue Service for his failure to pay taxes on the proceeds of his scheme. He has said he’s lost everything and feels “ashamed” for losing sight of his moral compass.
After their arrests, according to NBC News, Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, admitted to paying Singer and his Foundation $500,000 to get their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, into the University of Southern California. An official within the school’s athletic department marked them as official recruits for the rowing team, even though neither young woman had participated in the sport. To keep up the ruse, Loughin and Giannulli took pictures of their girls on a rowing machine to submit with their applications.
Loughlin was released in December 2020 after two months in prison. She was also fined $150,000 and ordered to complete 100 hours of community service upon her release. Giannulii was sentenced to five months in prison, fined $250,000, and ordered to complete 250 hours of community service when he was released in April 2021.
Lori Loughlin Stages Comeback on New Network
In October 2021, Us Weekly reported that a source close to Loughlin said the actress hoped people would let her and her family move on because she had “served her time in jail and completed her probation, community service and paid all of her court fines.” The person also told the magazine that the actress had privately arranged to put two students through four years of college, paying $500,000 for their tuition and expenses.
Hallmark has not resumed any formal relationship with Loughlin, and even edited out some of her scenes in her series “When Calls The Heart,” which her character was written out of in season 6. But when Great American Family, run by former Hallmark CEO Bill Abbott, took over the rights to the show’s spinoff, “When Hope Calls,” they hired Loughlin to reprise her role as Abigail Stanton for the show’s second season, which premiered in December 2021.
A third season has not yet been announced, but Loughlin is set to appear alongside James Tupper in her first TV movie since the college admissions scandal. “Fall Into Winter” debuts on Great American Family on January 28 at 8 Eastern.
Meanwhile, Hallmark has quietly begun reintroducing Loughlin’s popular “Garage Sale Mysteries” to its viewers — first this past summer on the Hallmark Movies Now streaming app, and coming up during an unannounced “Garage Sale Mysteries” marathon on January 8 on the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries channel.
The timing of Singer’s sentencing, weeks before Loughlin’s return to movies, has reminded many fans of the scandal and they’re divided over Loughlin getting a second chance. On Great American Family’s Instagram post last week promoting “Fall Into Winter,” some fans expressed delight about her return while others insisted they wouldn’t watch anything she’s in.
For instance, one fan wrote, “Glad to see you back! As a mom of college student twins, I understand that everyone makes mistakes. I think you deserve a chance to do what you love and a second chance. As human beings the ability to get back up from a mistake or a set back shows the real content of our character. It is our best quality Welcome back, Lori.”
But others echoed the sentiments of a viewer who wrote, “I personally see her as pompous and priveledged. Wouldn’t watch anything she is in, even more so something about ‘family.'”