'Slap in face' - TV star's daughters ripped online in college fraud scheme

By Gina Cherelus

By Gina Cherelus

(Reuters) - The daughters of "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin became targets of scorn on social media on Tuesday after their mother was charged in an alleged scheme to help privileged Americans get their children into elite universities by fraudulent means.

"What a slap in the face for people who are waitlisted, or people who are academically smart but can't afford college," wrote one Instagram user, @tyleranny. "Rich privilege truly is a thing. U didn't even have to go to college, u can afford not to."

Loughlin and her husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, agreed to pay bribes of $500,000 in a scheme that involved cheating on college entrance exams to help their daughters, Isabella and Olivia Giannulli, get into the University of Southern California, according to court documents.

Representatives for Loughlin and Giannulli, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The daughters could not immediately be reached for comment.

Federal prosecutors in Boston charged 50 people on Tuesday in the alleged $25 million racketeering scheme to help rich Americans cheat to gain admission for their children into Yale, Stanford and other top schools. [nL1N20Z0OR]

Olivia Giannulli, a so-called online "influencer" who goes by the name Olivia Jade online, was the target of most of the backlash. Her most recent Instagram post, featuring a photo of the young socialite posing on a chair, filled up with angry comments soon after her mother was named by prosecutors.

"Girl you didn't need to go to college, you would've been just fine making money like you're doing now," wrote Instagram user @oneidaaa_. "Your parents' actions robbed a student from a position at this university. A student who actually needs this degree."

In addition to her Instagram page, with more than 1 million followers, Olivia Giannulli, 19, manages a YouTube channel with nearly 2 million subscribers. Some of her videos and photos featured online were paid partnerships with Amazon.com Inc <AMZN.O>, LVMH's Sephora <LVMH.PA> and other brands that sponsor her testimonial-style content.

She came under fire in August, when some of her subscribers called her spoiled and privileged over her comments about going to college, featured in videos posted on her YouTube channel.

"I don't know how much of school I'm gonna attend," Giannulli said in one video clip where she talks about her plans for school. "But I do want the experience of like game days and partying ... I don't really care about school, as you guys all know."

She later apologised for those comments in a separate video.

On Tuesday, some social media users defended her, saying that she might not have been aware of the scheme. Prosecutors said that some of the children were unaware of the scam, while others were.

"Give Olivia the benefit of the doubt, we don't know that she had any knowledge of this. I'm sure she did work hard regardless," wrote one user, @miaaalverez, on Instagram.

 

(Reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Bill Berkrot)