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BOSTON, Sept. 13 (Reuters) – Two high-profile business executives were named on Monday to become the first to stand trial in the college admissions scandal “Operation Varsity Blues” on charges of paying bribes. de-vin to get their children admitted to an elite American University.
Former casino manager Gamal Aziz, 64, and private equity firm founder John Wilson, 62, are accused of conspiring with California college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer , who had previously pleaded guilty in connection with the operation.
Prosecutors allege the two fathers fraudulently sought places for their children at the University of Southern California as bogus sports rookies with hundreds of thousands of dollars in payouts.
The pair deny any wrongdoing, saying they believed the money was for donations to universities, not bribes.
A federal jury in Boston will hear opening statements for the trial, which is expected to last up to four weeks, on Monday. The judge set two class trials for the parents who pleaded not guilty. Aziz and Wilson are the first, and other defendants will be tried in January.
Wilson and Aziz were charged two and a half years ago, along with dozens of business executives and celebrities. The scandal exposed the efforts rich parents would make to secure places for their children in the best schools and the inequalities in higher education.
“It says a lot, but not at all good, about the way people in this country treat college admissions,” said Andrew Lelling, the former Massachusetts federal prosecutor who first brought the case. .
Fifty-seven people have been charged in the investigation since 2019, including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. The two were among 46 people, including 32 wealthy parents, who have since pleaded guilty.
Aziz is the former chairman of the Macau branch of Wynn Resorts Ltd (WYNN.O), and Wilson is a former executive at Gap Inc and Staples Inc who founded Hyannis Port Capital.
Prosecutors said that Singer, through his college consulting firm, The Key, not only offered legitimate services to parents concerned about their children’s academic prospects, but also the use of an illicit “side door” to guarantee their admission.
The singer has yet to be convicted after pleading guilty in 2019 to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and using bribes to secure students’ admission to universities as as fake sports recruits.
While Singer has emerged as a star cooperating government witness, prosecutors said Friday they did not expect to call her to testify. Read more
Prosecutors said Aziz agreed in 2018 to pay $ 300,000 to secure her daughter’s admission to USC as a basketball rookie by bribing an official.
Prosecutors allege Wilson in 2014 paid $ 220,000 for his son to falsely name a USC water polo rookie and then sought to pay an additional $ 1.5 million to fraudulently secure spots for his two girls at Stanford and Harvard universities.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Cynthia Osterman
Nate Raymond is newsletter editor and lead author of The Daily Docket newsletter and also covers litigation. He can be reached at [email protected]
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