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Lori Loughlin and Husband Mossimo Giannulli Reportedly Made 'Calculated' Decision to Participate in Admissions Scam

Lori Loughlin and husband Mossimo Giannulli reportedly made a "calculated decision" to join the college admissions scam, as the $500,000 they allegedly forked over to designate their daughters as crew team recruits was a sliver of what they would have paid had they donated directly to the University of Southern California.

A source told Us Weekly that the Full House actress and the fashion designer, who are each facing up to 40 years in prison, were trying to be frugal with the scheme.

"Lori and her husband made a calculated decision to get their daughters into USC, and bypassed donating directly to the university to save money," the source said. "It would have cost millions of dollars to get the girls into USC if they had gone that path. Donating buildings or establishing scholarships has been the whispered norm to get kids of wealthy parents into universities, including USC."

The source said that Loughlin and Giannulli's involvement with scheme leader William "Rick" Singer also gave them a more discreet way to achieve their goals. According to the insider, the plan with Singer prevented them from having to make a $20 to $50 million donation to the university.

"The public would have known," the source said. "They were able to get the girls into USC for $500,000."

A separate source said that Loughlin's friends blame Giannulli for the couples' involvement. "Everyone feel bad for her," the source said. "They think the situation was something concocted by her husband."

Loughlin, 54, and Giannulli, 55, pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of fraud and money laundering, after rejecting a plea deal which would have carried a minimum of a two-year prison sentence.

"They missed the opportunity for a plea bargain during the first round, and now there might not be a deal available for them to take," legal coach and crisis manager Wendy Feldman told Us Weekly earlier this month.

The couple were reportedly "in denial" about potential jail time "based on her legal team's confidence," according to a different source, who told Us Weekly that "her attorney told her not to take the deal."

After refusing the plea deal, Loughlin and Giannulli were hit with an additional money laundering charge in addition to their fraud charges.

A legal source told PEOPLE that Loughlin is "very afraid" for her and Giannulli's daughters' sake, should the case head to trial.

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“Lori is very concerned about what a trial will do to her daughters,” the source said. “It will undermine every accomplishment they have in the future and it will be part of their story forever.”

“It’s not in their best interest for this to go to trial, and Lori knows it. Because if it goes to trial, the girls will have to take the stand, and be cross examined by a prosecution that wants nothing more than to put a notch on their belt,” the source said. “Lori is very afraid that her daughters will have to testify. That will traumatize them even more."