Lori and Mossimo paid $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters, Olivia, 20, and Isabella, 21, admitted to the University of Southern California as recruits for the crew team, though neither of them had ever participated in the sport. The couple initially pleaded not guilty to all charges leveled against them, claiming their payments were donations to the school and not bribes.
"While both of her girls know very well that their mother and father had their best interests at heart, they feared the absolute worst. But lately their girls have questioned everything," a source tells ET.
Lori and Mossimo's decision to plead guilty came nearly two weeks after Judge Nathaniel Gorton declined to dismiss the charges against the couple and several other parents after they accused investigators of fabricating evidence.
"Ever since the judge denied the motion to dismiss all charges in their parents criminal case it's been weighing on the entire family," the source continues. "For some time they had agreed not to discuss the case at home but that ruling was a game changer for everyone. They expressed their fears to their parents and the urgency for this to be over and for all of them to move on."
Though Lori "trusts her girls and close friends and of course values their opinions," the source tells ET that her decision to plead guilty was made "with her husband and her legal team."
"Lori's friends have encouraged her throughout this process to take a plea. The moment Felicity Huffman took a plea, Lori's friends pushed her to do the same," the source says.
Last fall, Huffman spent 13 days behind bars after admitting to paying $15,000 to help get her eldest daughter, Sophia, into an elite college by cheating on the SAT. The actress was also ordered to complete 250 hours of community service and pay a $30,000 fine.
Lori, however, "never planned to plead guilty" like Huffman. "She just has never felt she deserved to be punished for trying to help her children and give back to the school," the source says. "She stood by her husband and lawyers’ decision to not take a plea. She believed that once the judge and jury heard her side of the story, they would understand."
The source adds, "But as time passed, the reality set in. Right now, all she wants is for this entire nightmare to be over."
Also factoring into Lori's decision to take a plea was, according to the source, "her hope that she could possibly receive house arrest during the coronavirus pandemic."
"She only wishes her court date were sooner so her family can move on and get back to some semblance of a normal life," the source says of Lori and her husband's Aug. 21 sentencing date. "Lori held out for as long as she possibly could before she finally broke down and took a plea. She truly felt she had no choice despite her belief she doesn't deserve any jail time."
Both Lori and Mossimo have now agreed to serve jail time in their plea deals. Lori agreed to serve two months in prison and two years of supervised release, pay a $150,000 fine, and complete 100 hours of community service, while Mossimo agreed to serve five months in prison and two years of supervised release, pay a $250,000 fine, and complete 250 hours of community service.
"She has faced many sleepless nights in fear of the final outcome before coming to terms with the fact she couldn't chance spending years away from her girls behind bars," the source says. "She also knew she and Mossimo were risking their children losing both parents for a very long time."