Two wealthy parents were convicted Friday of buying their kids’ way into school as athletic recruits in the first case to trial in the college admissions cheating scandal that embroiled prestigious universities nationwide. Gamal Abdelaziz, a , and John Wilson, a former Staples Inc. executive, were after about 10 hours of deliberations in the case that exposed a scheme to get undeserving applicants into college by falsely portraying them as star athletes.
Abdelaziz, of Las Vegas, was charged with paying $300,000 to get his daughter into the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit even though she didn’t even make it onto her high school’s varsity team. Wilson, who heads a Massachusetts private equity firm, was accused of paying $220,000 to have his son designated as a USC recruit and an additional $1 million to buy his twin daughters’ way into Harvard and Stanford.
Lawyers for the pair argued they believed their payments were legitimate donations andat the admissions consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer. The parents they had no idea that Singer was using their money as bribes and was falsifying or exaggerating athletic credentials on behalf of their kids. The case’s center was a series of secretly between Singer and the parents that prosecutors said proved Abdelaziz and Wilson were in on the scheme. The FBI wiretapped Singer’s rings and convinced the admissions consultant to to get a lighter sentence.
In one call, Wilson asked Singer which sports “would be best” for his twin daughters. The Singer responded that it “doesn’t matter” and that he would “make them a sailor or something” because Wilson lives on. Wilson laughed and asked: “Is there a two-for-one special? If you got twins?” In another call, Singer told Abdelaziz that Donna Heinel, former senior associate athletic director at USC, told him Abdelaziz’s daughter’s fake firm profile was so well done that she wanted him to use that profile going forward for “anybody who that’s a female.”
“I love it,” Abdelaziz responded. The defense sought to poke holes in the government’sSinger to the stand. Abdelaziz and Wilson’s lawyers portrayed Singer as a who manipulated the parents and assured them his so-called side-door scheme was legitimate and endorsed by the schools. “He never agreed with Rick Singer to bribe anyone at USC, and he never agreed with Rick Singer to defraud USC with some phony profile that he never saw,” Abdelaziz’s attorney, Brian Kelly, told jurors during his .
Wilson and Abdelaziz were both convicted of months in prison. Heinel and two coaches — ex-USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic and former University women’s volleyball coach William Ferguson — are scheduled to stand trial in November. Three other jurors in January.. Wilson was also convicted of additional bribery charges, wire fraud, and . Thirty-three other parents have in the case, including TV actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli. The parents have received punishments ranging from probation to nine