Two parents convicted in US college admissions scandal

By: AFP      Published: 10:03 AM, 9 Oct, 2021
Two parents convicted in US college admissions scandal
File photo.

Two parents who were the first to stand trial in America's massive college admissions scandal were found guilty on Friday of paying bribes to get their children into prestigious universities.

Jurors in Boston, Massachusetts convicted financier John Wilson, 62, and former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz, 64, of bribery and fraud charges following a four-week trial.

There are among some 50 people indicted over the elaborate scam which shone a spotlight on how America's rich use their wealth to manipulate the admissions process at elite colleges.

Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were the most high-profile personalities ensnared in the sweeping federal case known as "Operation Varsity Blues."

"Full House " actress Loughlin served two months jail-time last year after she and her husband admitted to paying $500,000 to gain admission for their two daughters at the University of Southern California (USC) as recruits to the crew team -- a sport neither had ever trained in.

Huffman, of "Desperate Housewives" fame, served 11 days of a two-week sentence at a low-security California facility in October 2019 after admitting to paying $15,000 to boost her daughter's SAT college entrance exam score.

Federal prosecutors have secured 48 guilty pleas since indicting 57 people in March 2019, according to US media reports. 

The ringleader behind the college admissions scam, William "Rick" Singer, who authorities say was paid about $25 million to bribe sports coaches and university administrators, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities.

Wilson and Abdelaziz mark the first convictions of a handful parents who pleaded not guilty and who are going on trial this year.

Wilson was accused of paying Singer $220,000 in 2013 to have his son admitted to the USC as a purported water polo recruit.

Prosecutors also said he paid more than $1.5 million in 2018 to get his twin daughters into Stanford and Harvard as purported sailing recruits.

Abdelaziz paid Singer $300,000 in 2018 to have his daughter admitted to USC as a fake basketball recruit.

They will be sentenced in February and could face up to 20 years in prison.

None of the schools or students have been charged in the case.