Actress Lori Loughlin has admitted to paying a college counselor $500,000 to help her two daughters gain admission to the University of Southern California. The “Full House” star was one of the most prominent celebrities caught up in the recent college admissions scandal. Loughlin entered a guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud during a May 22 hearing that was conducted using teleconference equipment due to restrictions put into place to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the hearing, U.S. attorneys described how Loughlin and her husband sent the college counselor photographs of her daughters posing in front of rowing machines. These images were then used to fabricate false athletic credentials for the two girls. In recent months, more than 20 other parents pleaded guilty to similar charges while Loughlin and her husband maintained their innocence. They decided to accept a negotiated plea deal after a motion to dismiss the charges due to alleged prosecutorial misconduct was denied.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Loughlin will serve two months in a federal prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. She will also pay a fine of up to $150,000 and serve 100 hours of community service. Her sentencing hearing is scheduled for August 21. If she had been found guilty after a trial, the actress could have been sent to prison for up to 20 years.

This plea agreement reveals how far federal prosecutors may go to avoid the risks of a trial even when their cases appear strong and a conviction seems likely. The penalties for committing white-collar crimes can be severe in the federal system, but experienced criminal defense attorneys may be able to negotiate for more lenient sentences by citing mitigating factors and reminding U.S. attorneys about the unpredictability of juries.