Tue. May 17th, 2022

Two wealthy parents were convicted on Friday of buying their children’s way to school when athletic recruits in the first case were to go to court in college admissions that cheat scandal involving prestigious universities across the country.

Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino manager, and John Wilson, a former Staples Inc. boss, was found guilty after about 10 hours of deliberation in the case, which revealed a scheme to get undeserved college applicants by mistakenly portraying them as star athletes.

“What they did was an insult to hard-working students and parents, but the verdict today proves that even these defendants – powerful and privileged people – are not above the law,” acting Massachusetts-American lawyer Nathaniel Mendell told reporters.

John Wilson, center and his wife, are leaving the right-wing federal court after being found guilty of participating in a fraudulent admission scheme on Friday, October 8, 2021 in Boston.  Wilson and another wealthy parent, Gamal Abdelaziz, were convicted on Friday of buying their children's way into school when athletic recruits in the first case were to go to court in the college admission scandal involving prestigious universities across the country.  (AP Photo / Josh Reynolds)

John Wilson, center and his wife, are leaving the right-wing federal court after being found guilty of participating in a fraudulent admission scheme on Friday, October 8, 2021 in Boston. Wilson and another wealthy parent, Gamal Abdelaziz, were convicted on Friday of buying their children’s way into school when athletic recruits in the first case were to go to court in the college admission scandal involving prestigious universities across the country. (AP Photo / Josh Reynolds)
(AP Photo / Josh Reynolds)

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Abdelaziz, from Las Vegas, was accused of paying $ 300,000 to get his daughter into the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit, even though she did not even reach her high school. Wilson, who heads a Massachusetts private equity firm, was accused of paying $ 220,000 to have his son named as USC water polo recruitment and an additional $ 1 million to buy his twin daughters’ roads to Harvard and Stanford.

They are due to be sentenced in February. Abdelaziz’s lawyer promised to appeal.

“Obviously this is not the result Abdelaziz was hoping for, but that’s why we have appeals courts,” attorney Brian Kelly said in an email.

An email seeking comment was sent to Wilson’s attorney.

They are among nearly 60 people charged in the investigation, who have been called by the authorities as “Operation Varsity Blues”, who also captured athletic trainers at such prestigious schools as Georgetown and Yale. Other parents were accused of paying large bribes to get people to cheat on their children’s entrance exams.

33 parents have pleaded guilty, including TV actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer, Mossimo Giannulli. The parents have so far received sentences ranging from probation to nine months in prison. In all, nearly four dozen people have pleaded guilty.

John Wilson, left, and his wife, right, are leaving federal court after being found guilty of participating in a fraudulent admission scheme on Friday, October 8, 2021 in Boston.  Wilson and another wealthy parent, Gamal Abdelaziz, were convicted on Friday of buying their children's way into school when athletic recruits in the first case were to go to court in the college admission scandal involving prestigious universities across the country.  (AP Photo / Josh Reynolds)

John Wilson, left, and his wife, right, are leaving federal court after being found guilty of participating in a fraudulent admission scheme on Friday, October 8, 2021 in Boston. Wilson and another wealthy parent, Gamal Abdelaziz, were convicted on Friday of buying their children’s way into school when athletic recruits in the first case were to go to court in the college admission scandal involving prestigious universities across the country. (AP Photo / Josh Reynolds)
(AP Photo / Josh Reynolds)

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Lawyers for Abdelaziz and Wilson argued that they believed their payments were legitimate donations, pointing the finger at the admissions consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer. The parents insisted they had no idea Singer was using their money as bribes and falsified or exaggerated athletic credentials on behalf of their children.

At the center of the case was a series of secretly recorded phone calls between Singer and the parents, which prosecutors said proved that Abdelaziz and Wilson were involved in the scheme. The FBI intercepted Singer’s call and then convinced the admission consultant to start collaborating with investigators in 2018 in hopes of getting a lighter sentence. Singer has pleaded guilty to a number of charges, including conspiracy to launder money, and has not yet been convicted.

In a call, Wilson Singer asked which sport would be best for his twin daughters. Singer replied that it “does nothing” and that he would “make them a sailor or something” because Wilson lives on Cape Cod.

Wilson laughed and asked, “Is there a two-for-one special? If you had twins?”

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In another call, Singer told Abdelaziz that Donna Heinel, former senior associate athletic director at USC, told him that Abdelaziz’s daughter’s fake athletic profile was so well executed that she wanted him to use that profile forward for “anyone who is not a real basketball player who is a woman. “

“I love it,” Abdelaziz replied.

The defense tried to punch holes in the government’s case by questioning why they chose not to call Singer to the booth. Abdelaziz and Wilson’s lawyers portrayed Singer as a cheater who manipulated his parents and assured them that his so-called side-door scheme was legitimate and approved by the schools.

“John is not part of Singer’s con. There is no evidence, not even a hint that John found out about Singer’s scam. The truth is simple: John is Singer’s victim, not once but twice,” Wilson’s lawyer said. Michael Kendall, to jury members. in his concluding argument.

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Wilson and Abdelaziz were both convicted of fraud and bribery. Wilson was also convicted of additional charges of bribery, fraud and filing a false tax return.

The far-reaching Varsity Blues case has been prosecuted by Boston since authorities began investigating the scheme many years ago, thanks to a tip from a leader targeted in a securities fraud investigation.

Heinel and two coaches — ex-USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic and former Wake Forest University women’s volleyball coach William Ferguson are scheduled to appear in court in November. Three other parents are expected to meet jury members in January.

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