Lori Loughlin Might Face 2 to 3 Years in Prison if Found Guilty in College Admissions Case: Expert

Ever since defendants began receiving their sentences in the college admissions scandal, the question las loomed: what will be the eventual fates of Full House actress Lori Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli?

In newly released court transcripts obtained by Good Morning America, the judge in the case has been harshly critical of many defendants, telling one of them that he must “pay a substantial and conspicuous price for such unconscionable conduct.”

The defendant, 56-year-old real estate executive Toby MacFarlane, was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. His case was strikingly similar to Loughlin and Giannulli’s: He lied about his children’s athletic backgrounds to get them into the University of Southern California — and paid $450,000 in bribes.

Loughlin and Giannulli have been accused of doing nearly the same thing. They allegedly paid $500,000 to admissions consultant William Singer to falsely designate daughters Olivia Jade Giannulli, 20, and Isabella Rose Giannulli, 21, as recruits to the USC crew team, though neither actually participated in the sport.

“These cases are very similar,” says GMA legal analyst Dan Abrams. “It’s almost the same amount of money. It’s two kids. It’s faking the profiles, etc.”

“Now this was a guilty plea,” Abrams continued. “This was someone who’s accepted responsibility for it, and is still getting six months. So you’ve got to believe if [Loughlin] were to take it to trial, with the additional charge that’s been thrown on her, if she was convicted, she’d be looking at a few years. I wouldn’t be surprised if she got 2 to 3 years if she’s convicted.”

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“There’s a similarity to the cases,” a source close to Loughlin acknowledged to PEOPLE last week. “And they’re smart enough to see that. So they’re very concerned. If this guy pleaded guilty and was still given six months, what does that mean for them? If they’re convicted, their sentences are going to be very severe. Also, they face more charges than Mr. McFarlane did. They’re very discouraged.”

In addition to charges of money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, Loughlin and Giannulli were handed an additional federal charge last month: one count each of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery.

They now face up to 45 years in prison, although it seems unlikely they’ll serve such a harsh sentence.

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Felicity Huffman

Meanwhile, Felicity Huffman was released three days early from her 14-day prison term in October. Unlike MacFarlane, the Desperate Housewives star didn’t lie about her daughter’s athletic ability but instead paid Singer $15,000 to have a proctor change her SAT answers after she took the test.

Huffman is now serving community service, of which she was sentenced to 250 hours.

As the case against Loughlin and Giannulli moves forward, the legal source tells PEOPLE that they’re trying to think about other things. “It’s very hard for Lori not to obsess about this case and what her future will be,” says the source. “She knows that she should focus on all the good things in her life, but it’s almost impossible for her to do it. This is hanging over her head every single day.”

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