Court overturns convictions of two parents in college admissions scandal

A federal appeals court this week overturned the convictions of two parents convicted of bribing their childrens’ way into elite universities as part of a bombshell college admissions scandal that exposed the rigged nature of higher education.

The 1st US Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston tossed out all the convictions against Gamal Abdelaziz and all but one against John Wilson.

A jury previously found both men guilty of fraud and bribery conspiracy for buying their children into prestigious colleges as bogus athletic recruits as part of the “Operation Varsity Blues” scam spearheaded by admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer.

In their ruling on Wednesday, however, a three-judge panel found that the trial judge incorrectly instructed the jury to consider the admissions spot as university “property” under the mail and wire fraud law.

The panel also found that the prosecution failed to prove that Abdelaziz and Wilson agreed to the “overarching conspiracy” perpetrated by Singer and his associates.

A spokesperson for the Massachusetts US Attorney said that the office is reviewing the opinion.

In an email to The Associated Press, Abdelaziz’s attorneys said the former casino owner was “grateful” to have his “unfair conviction” reversed.

John Wilson.
John Wilson was previously sentenced to 15 months behind bars.

A lawyer for Wilson, a private equity financier, said they are going over the opinion in the wake of the court’s decision to uphold his charge of filing a false tax return.

Abdelaziz and Wilson were sentenced last year to 12 and 15 months in prison, respectively, though they were allowed to remain free while pursuing their appeals.

Abdelaziz was originally accused of paying $300,000 to get his daughter into the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit, even though she did not play on her high school’s varsity team.

Gamal Abdelaziz.
Gamal Abdelaziz, above, and Wilson are the first Varsity Blues defendants to challenge their convictions in court.

Wilson was alleged to have paid $220,000 to have his son designated as a water polo recruit at USC, in addition to a $1 million bribe to get his twin daughters’ into Harvard and Stanford.

Both men argued in their appeals that they believed their donations were lawful contributions to the schools.

The wide-reaching Varsity Blues scandal embroiled over 50 wealthy parents and dozens of universities across the country. Most of the defendants – including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, who both served short prison stints – pleaded guilty.

Gamal Abdelaziz.
Abdelaziz was sentenced last year to one year in prison.

Abdelaziz and Wilson are the first parents to challenge the case in court.

Singer, 62, was sentenced in January to three and a half years in prison for his role at the heart of the scam.

“I lost my ethical values and have so much regret,” he told the judge at the time.

”To be frank, I am ashamed of myself.”

With Post wires

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𝗖𝗿𝗲𝗱𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗖𝗼𝗽𝘆𝗿𝗶𝗴𝗵𝘁 & 𝗖𝗼𝘂𝗿𝘁𝗲𝘀𝘆:
𝗙𝗼𝗿 𝗮𝗻𝘆 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗮𝗶𝗻𝘁𝘀 𝗿𝗲𝗴𝗮𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗗𝗠𝗖𝗔,
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