Two corporate exec parents found guilty in first college admissions scandal trial

Kendall Tietz, DCNF

Two corporate executive parents whose children attend prestigious universities were found guilty in federal court Friday for bribing university staff to rig the admissions process, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Gamal Abdelaziz, former chief operations officer of Wynn Resorts Development and John Wilson, a private-equity financier and former chief financial officer of Staples, who were tried together in federal court, each spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to falsify their childrens’ academic and athletic records to gain admission to the University of Southern California (USC), Stanford and Harvard as athletic recruits with the help of scandal ringleader and admissions consultant Rick Singer.

The two men were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery involving a school that receives federal funds, the WSJ reported. The jury also found Wilson guilty of aiding and abetting in fraud and bribery and filing a false tax return.

Abdelaziz was convicted of paying Singer $300,000 to get his daughter into USC as a basketball recruit. Wilson was convicted of paying $220,000 to get USC’s water polo coach to admit his son as a recruit in addition to paying $1 million to get his two daughters admitted into Stanford and Harvard as sailors.

It has been more than two years since parents and coaches were first arrested in 2019 for their involvement in the scheme to rig the competitive college admissions process at some of the U.S.’s most elite universities.

Wilson and Abdelaziz’ sentencing hearings are scheduled for Feb. 16-17, the WSJ reported. Punishments for other parents involved in the scandal who have already pled guilty instead of going to trial have varied from probation to nine months in prison.

More “Operation Varsity Blues” trials are anticipated, but so far 57 people have been charged and 47 have already pled guilty or agreed to plead guilty, the WSJ reported. Prosecutors utilized audio recordings to build the case against the parents as cognizant participants in the scheme.

“The defendants’ own words convict them in this case,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank told the jury during Wednesday’s closing arguments. “These parents were not willing to take no for an answer and to get to yes, they crossed a line. And in crossing that line, they broke the law.”

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