US actress Lori Loughlin faces new charge in college bribery scandal

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NEW YORK (AFP) - American actress Lori Loughlin was hit with a second charge on Tuesday (April 9) stemming from a college admissions bribery scandal, increasing the likelihood that she could serve time in prison.

The actress, known for her role on Full House, now faces the charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering in addition to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, federal prosecutor Andrew Lelling said.

The second charge is punishable by up to 20 years in jail, bringing the total prison time she now potentially faces to 40 years.

Unlike actress Felicity Huffman, who was also among 33 parents charged in the case, Loughlin has so far chosen not to plead guilty - a move that, in addition to avoiding trial, usually results in a reduced sentence.

In Huffman's case, the prosecutor's office on Monday recommended a sentence corresponding to the bottom end of the possible range, which provides for a minimum of four months in prison.

The sentencing judge is not however required to follow this recommendation.

Even if Loughlin decided to plead guilty later, the recommended sentence would probably be significantly higher due to the second charge as well as the amount of money involved.

Huffman pleaded guilty to paying US$15,000 (S$20,000) to help her eldest daughter get better scores on the SAT college entrance exam, while Loughlin and her husband are accused of paying US$500,000 so that their two daughters could gain entrance into the University of Southern California.

The ringleader behind the scam, William "Rick" Singer, who authorities say was paid about US$25 million dollars to bribe coaches and university administrators, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities.

According to prosecutors, the accused parents paid a firm run by Singer to cheat on college entrance exams for their children or to bribe coaches to help non-athletic students get sports scholarships.

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