Another twist in the Lori Loughlin college scam story emerged on Friday, with federal prosecutors offering an explanation about notes from admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer, who claimed federal agents were pressuring him to lie to his clients.
In a court filing Friday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank explained the agents’ conduct, and denied claims of misconduct, Variety reports.
“The government did not commit misconduct in this case,” Frank wrote. “It did not fabricate evidence. It did not entrap any defendant. And it did not suborn the commission of a crime.”
Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are facing bribery, fraud, and money laundering charges for allegedly paying $500,000 to get their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California. The trial is currently set for October.
Their defense has argued that the couple thought they were making a donation to the school, and that federal agents coached Singer not to offer any explanation in his calls with them in October.
Agents interviewed Singer again this past Wednesday, and he explained that he was frustrated, and why he felt that way when he wrote his original notes. He didn’t understand he was breaking the law, and has since pleaded guilty in the case.
“At the time he never considered what he was doing was a bribe and he had several arguments with the agents over the word bribe,” the memo states. “He thought he was doing something wrong but legal, but didn’t know for sure until his attorney explained that it was illegal. Singer stated that he always knew he was doing a quid pro quo, and now he understands that is the same as bribery.”
“Singer noted that the agents didn’t do anything wrong,” the memo stated, according to Variety. “He explained that he just didn’t understand at the time.”
Another note from Singer complained that Elizabeth Keating, an IRS investigator working on the case, had “raised her voice to me like she did in the hotel room about agreeing with her that everyone bribed the schools.”
In a declaration submitted to the court, Keating explained that she was “more animated than usual” because Singer had refused to take responsibility for the scheme, but she didn’t feel she had raised her voice to him.
Keating also said she was trying to get Singer to be more clear in the recorded calls with parents that the payments would actually be bribes, so that the parents intent wasn’t confusing. But Singer pushed back, because he did not normally use that language.
The prosecution also said that by the time the government was working with Singer, both Loughlin and Giannulli were already taking part in the alleged bribery scheme. Frank argued that the government wasn’t trying to coerce the couple into committing a crime, but confirming the crime had occurred by gathering evidence.
“Singer repeated back to the defendants a summary of the crime they had committed and asked them if they agreed they had done it,” Frank wrote. “The calls were the equivalent of a wired-up cooperator asking a drug dealer, to whom the cooperator has previously sold drugs, ‘Do you remember when I sold you those drugs?'”
The federal government claims that the overall evidence shows that the couple, and others awaiting trial for participating in the scam, were fully aware they were committing fraud, and not making a donation to the school.