Each of the parents is being charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, having been accused of paying William “Rick” Singer to bribe their children’s way into top colleges across the country. Singer, 58, has already pleaded guilty to four felony counts after he admitted to collecting over $25 million in the scheme.
Justin Paperny, a prison consultant who has been hired by at least one of the defendants, says he advises the parents to consider taking a plea. “I would encourage defendants, any defendants, if they broke the law to own it, to acknowledge it, to run not walk towards taking a plea agreement,” Paperny told CBS News, adding that “those that respond more appropriately should get better prison sentences.”
But despite Paperny’s advice, CBS reports that based on court documents, only one parent (Devin Sloane) is currently discussing plea options with the government.
If parents like Loughlin and Huffman are found guilty of mail fraud or honest services mail fraud during the trial, they could face up to 46 months in prison, according to CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney Page Pate. “Federal sentencing guidelines for fraud are primarily based on the amount of money involved, how sophisticated the fraud was what role the person played in the alleged scheme, and whether they were the ‘leader, middle, [or] low-end,'” Pate explained to Newsweek.
And Paperny says that the defendants are aware—and afraid—of potential jail time. “They’re scared and it’s ‘Can I survive in prison? Am I cut out for prison?'” he said to CBS. However, he went on to note that some of the parents are still in denial “What’s most surprising to me about the first conversation is how many of them didn’t view their actions as criminal.”