Two fathers were convicted Friday of paying bribes to get their kids into USC as athletic recruits in the first case to go to trial in the college admissions cheating scandal that ensnared elite universities across the country.
Former casino executive Gamal Aziz and former Staples Inc. executive John Wilson were found guilty in federal court in Boston after about 10 hours of jury deliberations, according to federal prosecutors.
Aziz — a Las Vegas resident also known as Gamal Abdelaziz — was charged with paying $300,000 to get his daughter into USC as a basketball recruit even though she didn’t play on 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 water polo recruit and an additional $1 million to buy his twin daughters’ ways into Harvard and Stanford.
The two men were both convicted of fraud and bribery conspiracy charges. Wilson was also convicted of additional charges of bribery, wire fraud and filing a false tax return. They were the first defendants to stand trial for charges stemming from the so-called Operation Varsity Blues scheme and are expected to be sentenced in February.
Almost three dozen other parents have pleaded guilty in the case, including TV actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli. Parents have so far received punishments ranging from probation to nine months in prison.
Ex-USC women’s soccer coach Laura Janke, who previously pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, testified during the trial that she created a fake athletic profile for Aziz’s daughter and others to help them gain admission into the university.
The scandal involved about 60 parents who allegedly paid a total of $25 million to bribe their children’s way into prestigious universities, including USC and UCLA.
William “Rick” Singer, a Newport Beach consultant at the center of the scheme, pleaded guilty in March 2019 to charges of racketeering, money laundering, fraud and obstruction and is awaiting sentencing.