Parents convicted of buying kids’ way at USC – NBC Los Angeles


Two wealthy parents were found guilty on Friday of buying their children’s way to school as athletic rookies in the first case to stand trial in the college admissions fraud scandal that has involved prestigious universities across the country.

Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, and John Wilson, a former executive of Staples Inc., were found guilty after about 10 hours of deliberations in the case which exposed a ploy to bring undeserving candidates into the league. university by misrepresenting them as star athletes.

Abdelaziz, of Las Vegas, has been accused of paying $ 300,000 to enroll his daughter at the University of Southern California as a basketball rookie, even though she was not even part of the university team from his high school. Wilson, who runs a Massachusetts private equity firm, has been accused of paying $ 220,000 to have his son named as a USC water polo rookie and an additional $ 1 million to purchase tickets to his twin daughters at Harvard and Stanford.

Lawyers for the couple argued that they believed their payments were legitimate donations and pointed to the admissions consultant at the center of the program, Rick Singer. Parents insisted they had no idea Singer was using their money as bribes and falsifying or exaggerating sports credentials on behalf of their children.

At the center of the case was a series of secretly taped phone calls between Singer and the parents which prosecutors said proved Abdelaziz and Wilson were involved in the scheme. The FBI tapped Singer’s calls, then convinced the admissions consultant to start cooperating with investigators in 2018 in hopes of securing a lighter sentence.

During a call, Wilson asked Singer which sports “would be best” for his twin daughters. The singer replied that it “doesn’t matter” and that he “would make a sailor out of him or something” because Wilson lives on Cape Cod.

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

On another call, Singer told Abdelaziz that Donna Heinel, former associate director general of sports at USC, told him that Abdelaziz’s daughter’s fake athletic profile was so well done that she wanted him to be. ‘he uses this profile in the future for’ anyone who is not a real basketball player. player who is female.

“I love it,” replied Abdelaziz.

The defense has sought to dig holes in the government’s record by questioning why they chose not to call Singer to the stand. Lawyers for Abdelaziz and Wilson have portrayed Singer as a con artist who manipulated parents and assured them that his so-called ploy was legitimate and school-approved.

“He never agreed with Rick Singer to bribe anyone at USC and he never agreed with Rick Singer to defraud USC with a bogus profile he never has. seen, “Abdelaziz’s lawyer Brian Kelly told jurors during his oral argument.

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

Thirty-three other parents have pleaded guilty to the case, including TV actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli. Parents have so far received sentences ranging from probation to nine months in prison.

Heinel and two coaches – former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic and former Wake Forest University women’s volleyball coach William Ferguson – are scheduled for trial in November. Three more parents are set to face jurors in January.

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