Long before Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli's daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, were admitted to USC, the prestigious university was calling into question their credentials as possible athletic recruits.
A newly disclosed cache of emails and documents pertaining to the investigation into the college admissions scandal paints a more brazen picture of the alleged actions of those involved in the case, and how the scandal was orchestrated.
According to the 480-plus documents disclosed by prosecutors on Tuesday, a USC official -- whose name was not revealed -- was in touch with Giannulli in September 2016, and appeared to be trying to court the fashion designer for a potential donation, according to prosecutors.
Eric S. Rosen, an assistant U.S. attorney, released the documents as part of a court filing, reportedly as an answer to claims by Giannulli and Loughlin -- as well as other defense attorneys representing the multitude of people embroiled in the scandal -- that they were led to believe the money they were paying would be serving as a legitimate donation to the university.
The unnamed USC official emailed Giannulli in an effort to "check in" and see if his daughter planned on "continuing with the admissions process at USC."
"Please let me know if I can be at all helpful in setting up a 1:1 opportunity for her, customized tour of campus for the family and/or a classroom visit," the official offered. "I'd also be happy to flag her application."
The nature of college donations influencing admissions procedures has sparked its own discussion in the public sphere, and as The New York Times points out, motions filed by the defense attorneys for several parents being charged in the scandal indicate that they will be highlighting the university's alleged propensity for linking fund-raising and admissions reviews.
USC denied any such implication in a statement to The New York Times: "What was being offered to the Giannullis was neither special nor unique. Tours, classroom visits and meetings are routinely offered. The primary purpose of a flag is to be able to track the outcome of the admission review process. It is not a substitute for otherwise being qualified for admission to USC."
In the government's filing on Tuesday, Rosen argued that Loughlin and Giannulli "specifically rejected this 'legitimate' approach," in favor of working with the scandal's alleged ringleader, William "Rick" Singer.
In August, a month before the unnamed USC official reached out, an email exchange allegedly shows that Singer had started the process of securing Isabella's admission into the college.
"I met with USC today about [redacted]. I need a PDF of her transcript and test scores while I create a coxswain portfolio for her," Singer wrote. "It would probably help to get a picture with her on an ERG [an indoor rowing machine] in workout clothes like a real athlete too."
Giannulli allegedly wrote back, "Fantastic. Will get all."
After USC reached out offering to "flag" his daughter's application the following month, Giannulli replied, "Thanks so much, I think we are squared away."
Minutes later, the USC official responded, asking again if his daughter would "indeed be applying" and then adding, "On another note, would you be interested in connecting to discuss your own involvement with USC? So much has changed since you were a student. I'd love to be able to update you on the amazing stuff that's happening." They offered to set up a meeting sometime that following month.
Gianulli responded, "She will be applying," and politely turned down the offer to discuss his own involvement with university affairs, explaining that he's been to the school since being a student and he has "some folks that keep me abreast of the latest and greatest."
Undeterred, the official response and offered, "If you'd ever like to discuss the impact your philanthropy or participation in our mentorship programs might have on our students and community, please let me know." Adding that "alumni support… is critical."
Giannulli then forwarded the entire email thread to his wife for her to read, and noted, "The nicest I've ever been at blowing off somebody."
Isabella was eventually admitted into the university, and her younger sister Jade was admitted the following year.
During Jade's admission process, Tim Brunold, the university's dean of admissions, flagged a discrepancy that arose during the admissions review process. Brunold flagged Donna Heinel, a high-ranking administrator in the athletic department, writing, "Here are a couple of students whose high schools were quite surprised to hear they were being admitted as athletic recruits," and he asked her to look into it.
Heinel responded that she'd investigated the matter and found that one of the girls had rowed for a "competitive" club and that a USC crew coach told her that she "has talent."
Heinel would go on to be arrested and accused of orchestrating her part of the college admissions scam. She has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering, bribery and fraud.
The documents appear to show that, for each of his daughters, Giannulli allegedly wrote out a check to the university for $50,000, to an account controlled by Heinel, and paid $200,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation, a shell charity allegedly run by Singer -- for a total of $500,000.
In an email allegedly between Giannulli and Singer in February 2018, Giannulli appears to asks about "the last college 'donation' for [redacted]. Can't I write this off?" Giannulli himself added quotation marks around the word "donation" in his own email asking if he could deduct the "donation" from his taxes.
Both Giannulli and Loughlin have plead not guilty to all charges leveled against them in the college admissions scandal.