2 Parents Are Convicted in the Varsity Blues Admissions Trial (Published 2021) (2022)

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John Wilson, a private equity financier, and Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, were the first people to stand trial in the federal investigation.

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Two Parents Found Guilty in Varsity Blues Admissions Trial

The federal investigation, known as Operation Varsity Blues, snared more than 50 parents, coaches, exam administrators and others in a scheme that had children fraudulently admitted as athletic recruits to some of the most prestigious universities in the country.

The defendants in the case decided today were powerful and successful men. They and their families enjoy privileges and opportunities that most of us can only imagine. Yet they were willing to break the law, and the jury has now found that they did break the law in order to guarantee an admission spot for their children in the school of their choosing. What they did was an affront to hard-working students and parents. But the verdict today proves that even these defendants, powerful and privileged people are not above the law.

2 Parents Are Convicted in the Varsity Blues Admissions Trial (Published 2021) (1)

By Anemona Hartocollis

Two parents were found guilty in federal court in Boston on Friday for participating in a bribery scheme to have their children fraudulently admitted as athletic recruits to some of the most prestigious universities in the country.

Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, and John Wilson, a private equity financier, were the first people to stand trial in the federal investigation known as Operation Varsity Blues.

(Video) Parents guilty in first college admissions scandal trial

The investigation has snared more than 50 parents, coaches, exam administrators and others in an admissions scheme that implicated college athletic programs at the University of Southern California, Yale, Stanford, Wake Forest and Georgetown. Many other wealthy parents, including some celebrities, have pleaded guilty rather than take their chances in court.

Mr. Abdelaziz, 64, was accused of paying $300,000 in 2018 to have his daughter admitted to U.S.C. as a top-ranked basketball recruit even though she did not make the varsity team in high school. Mr. Wilson, 62, was accused of paying $220,000 in 2014 to have his son admitted as a water polo recruit at U.S.C. His son did play water polo, but prosecutors said he was not good enough to compete at the university.

Mr. Wilson was also accused of agreeing to pay $1.5 million in 2018 to have his twin daughters, who were good students, admitted to Harvard and Stanford as recruited athletes.

“What they did was an affront to hard-working students and parents,” Nathaniel R. Mendell, the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said in a news conference after the verdict. “But the verdict today proves that even these defendants, powerful and privileged people, are not above the law.”

Mr. Abdelaziz and Mr. Wilson were both convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery and fraud; Mr. Wilson alone was found guilty of additional fraud and bribery charges and of filing a false tax return for taking a deduction for a payment that the government called a bribe.

They face up to 20 years in prison on the most serious charges. But experts said that under the sentencing guidelines they would get far less, perhaps less than three years for Mr. Abdelaziz and less than five years for Mr. Wilson.

In many ways, the college admissions system was also on trial. The defense argued that its clients were playing by the rules as they understood them: that wealthy parents could get an edge for their children by donating money. In this case, they paid the money through a corrupt college consultant, William Singer, who said he had a “side door” reserved for recruited athletes.

Key Figures in “Operation Varsity Blues”

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More than 50 people charged. In 2019, a federal investigation known as Operation Varsity Bluessnared dozens of parents, coaches and exam administrators in a vast college admissions scheme that implicated athletic programs at the University of Southern California, Yale, Stanford and other schools.

(Video) Audio tapes of the mastermind behind the Varsity Blues college admissions scandal

The linchpin. William Singer is an admissions counselor at the center of the scheme. Heled an elaborate effortto bribe coaches and test monitors, falsify exam scores and fabricate student biographies. He has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government. He has not been sentenced.

The parents. Actresses Felicity Huffmanand Lori Loughlinare among the more than three dozen parents— many of them wealthy and powerful — charged in the case. A private equity financier and a former casino executive, who were found guiltyon Oct. 8, 2021, were the first to stand trial. The former casino executive has received the harshest sentenceso far.

The coaches. The case also involved athletic coaches from some of the most prestigious universities in the country. Jovan Vavic, the former water polo coach at U.S.C., wasfound guiltyof taking more than $200,000 in bribes in exchange for designating high school applicants as recruits. He was later granted a new trial. Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, who was among the first to take a plea deal, has written a bookdetailing how he was duped by Mr. Singer.

Mr. Singer’s scheme has thrown an unflattering light on the college coaching industry, in which parents pay thousands of dollars for tutoring and advising services to help their children get into prestigious institutions. And it showed how many students use college athletics to gain a big advantage in admissions, reinforcing a cynical view that gaining entry into highly selective schools can be a transactional process.

But prosecutors stressed that universities were not on trial, and that this was not a case about traditional admissions. The defendants, they said, had gone to great lengths to pay bribes and falsify their children’s athletic profiles.

Even so, the case could lead to some self-examination by admissions officials, said Jeffrey M. Cohen, a former federal prosecutor and associate professor at Boston College Law School.

“People who are trying to cheat always look for the weakest link,” Mr. Cohen said, adding, “What’s shocking about this case was that we saw in broad daylight that people were lying to get through these weak links in the admissions system.”

U.S.C. issued a statement saying, “We respect the judicial process and the jury’s decision.”

The verdict was a swift, resounding victory for the prosecution. The jury came into the courtroom a little after 2:30 p.m. Friday, just more than 24 hours after it began deliberating. The court clerk read the verdict form, pronouncing each man’s name and a separate “guilty” verdict, over and over again, five times for the charges they had in common, and another six times for Mr. Wilson, a crushing pile of guiltys.

“This is obviously not the result he was looking for, but you know that’s our system and that’s why they have appellate courts, so that’s what we’ll be doing next,” Mr. Abdelaziz’ lawyer, Brian Kelly, said outside the courthouse.

As Mr. Wilson walked calmly out of John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse, he kept a straight face and held his wife’s hand. Though he was met by a barrage of reporters, he did not answer any questions.

Since the indictments were announced in March 2019, 47 of the 57 defendants who have been charged have pleaded guilty or have agreed to do so. Thirty-three of those have been parents, including the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, and Ms. Loughlin’s husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer. Their sentences have ranged up to nine months in prison.

A handful of parents are scheduled to go on trial in the new year.

(Video) 2 parents guilty in college admissions cheating scandal

The linchpin of the operation was Mr. Singer, who billed himself as a “concierge” admissions consultant for wealthy families. He ran a company called the Key and an associated foundation that provided a mix of legitimate and fraudulent services, and worked with a network of athletic coaches and administrators.

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He has pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges and is cooperating with the government, though he has not yet been sentenced.

Prosecutors said Mr. Singer’s services appealed to parents who wanted a guarantee of admission; he typically told them they did not have to pay in full until their children were admitted.

“The parents did not come up with the scheme; that was Rick Singer,” Leslie Wright, one of the prosecutors, said. “But without them, it never would have happened.”

After his son was admitted to U.S.C. as a water polo recruit, Mr. Wilson wrote in a March 2014 email to Mr. Singer: “Thanks again for making this happen! Pls give me the invoice. What are the options for the payment?” He asked if Mr. Singer could make it “for consulting or whatever,” so that “I can pay it from the corporate account?”

The defense argued that Mr. Wilson, a former Gap and Staples executive, and Mr. Abdelaziz, a former Wynn Resorts executive, were the victims of a masterful con artist. Mr. Singer had earned their trust by providing years of college coaching services, the defense lawyers told the jury, and they had no reason to suspect him.

They said they never saw the emails containing phony athletic profiles of their children that Mr. Singer sent to them for their approval — a claim the prosecution said was unlikely.

“John is not part of Singer’s con,” Michael Kendall, Mr. Wilson’s lawyer, told the jury. “There is no evidence, not even a hint, that John figured out Singer’s scam.”

Mr. Kelly, Mr. Abdelaziz’ lawyer, said: “It’s not illegal to do fund-raising, not illegal to give money to a school in the hopes that your kid will get in. So that’s his mind-set.”

In the end, the jurors did not see the defense’s blurry line, but a clear one. And they found that it had been crossed.

“The defendants in the case decided today were powerful and successful men,” Mr. Mendell, the acting U.S. attorney, said. “They and their families enjoyed privileges and opportunities that most of us could only imagine, yet they were willing to break the law. And a jury has now found that they did break the law.”

Colleen Cronin contributed reporting from Boston.

FAQs

What happened to the parents in the college admissions scandal? ›

Palo Alto residents Dr. Gregory Colburn, 65, and Amy Colburn, 53, were each sentenced to two months in prison for their role in the college admissions scandal on April 14, 2022. Courtesy Getty Images. U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M.

What happened to Donna Heinel USC? ›

Donna Heinel, the former senior associate athletic director at USC, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court for helping more than two dozen students get admitted to the college as fake athletic recruits.

What is the USC scandal? ›

It took less than five hours for the federal panel to convict the 60-year-old Jovan Vavic, who had led his Trojans to 16 national men's and women's titles, of fraud and bribery. Prosecutors said he received about $250,000 in bribes for designating unqualified students as water polo recruits so they could attend USC.

How much time did the parents get in the college scandal? ›

BOSTON (AP) — A former Staples Inc. executive convicted of trying to bribe his three children's way into elite universities was sentenced to serve 15 months in federal prison on Wednesday, the longest sentence so far handed down in the sprawling college admissions bribery scandal.

How many parents were involved in the college admissions scandal? ›

All told, 50 families were implicated, along with about a dozen administrators, Singer, and his co-conspirators, making it the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Formal charges include racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax fraud.

What happened to the kids involved in Varsity Blues? ›

They had their college places withdrawn, were trolled online, shunned by their classmates and embarrassed by their parents lack of faith in them to get a place off their own merit. None of the students were criminally charged, but that doesn't mean they didn't suffer from the fallout.

What happened to the coaches in the Varsity Blues scandal? ›

Sentences in the scandal to date range from one day in prison for a former Stanford University sailing coach to 15 months in prison for one parent, former senior Staples executive John Wilson. Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison, while Huffman was sentenced to 14 days.

Where is Rick Singer today? ›

He reportedly enrolled at Grand Canyon University in November 2019 to work towards a doctorate in psychology in an “effort to change his life for the future.” Although his lawyer said he had hoped to be nearly finished with the degree when he was sentenced in 2021 or 2022, Singer dropped out in July of 2020 after ...

Where is Mark Riddell now? ›

Mark Riddell is sentenced to four months in prison for role in college admissions scandal. (CNN) A key figure in the sprawling college admissions scam was sentenced to four months in prison Friday -- the same day a former University of Southern California water polo coach was found guilty of conspiracy and fraud.

What did USC get punished for? ›

In the University of Southern California athletics scandal, the University of Southern California (USC) was investigated and punished for NCAA rules violations in the Trojan football, men's basketball and women's tennis programs.

What is the acceptance rate for University of Southern California? ›

Who paid 500k for USC? ›

Lori Loughlin finishes prison sentence following college admissions scandal. The couple admitted that they paid $500,000 to Rick Singer and Key Worldwide Foundation to help their daughters, Olivia Jade and Isabella Rose, get into the University of Southern California by falsely portraying them as rowing recruits.

Who was rejected by the University of Southern California? ›

Amazingly Steven Spielberg was rejected from the University of Southern California School of Theatre, Film and Television 3 times.

Why did USC vacate wins? ›

USC was punished by the NCAA in 2010 for providing improper benefits for Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush. In addition to postseason bans and scholarship restrictions, the team was forced to vacate its 2004 national championship as well as its 12 wins in 2005.

Who got caught in the college admissions scandal? ›

Lori Loughlin to Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scandal

The actress Lori Loughlin has agreed to plead guilty and to serve two months in prison. Her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer, is expected to serve five months.

Who blew the whistle on college admissions? ›

That, in turn, led the feds to admitted mastermind William “Rick” Singer, a California college-prep expert who raked in more than $25 million from wealthy parents to get their underqualified kids into top schools, including Yale, Wake Forest, Georgetown and Stanford.

Who went to jail in college admission scandal? ›

Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison in August for her role in the college admissions scandal. She reported to a low-security federal facility in Dublin, California, on Friday. Felicity Huffman, meanwhile, was sentenced to just 14 days in prison in September for her role in the scheme.

How did they find out about the college admissions scandal? ›

Feds first discovered the college admissions scandal two years ago in a Boston hotel room, secretly recording a Yale soccer coach describing the bribe. Two years later, prosecutors have secured guilty pleas from over half of the scandal's 52 defendants.

Who pays for their kids in college? ›

These parents allegedly include actresses Felicity Huffman, who starred on the TV show “Desperate Housewives,” and Lori Loughlin, who appeared as Aunt Becky on “Full House." Loughlin and her husband allegedly hid their payments in two $200,000 wire transfers to the charity to get their daughters into USC.

When did the Varsity Blues scandal break? ›

America's secondary education system and Hollywood alike were rocked when 50 people, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin as well as ringleader William “Rick” Singer, were charged in a massive college admissions cheating scam in March 2019.

Who got in trouble for bribing colleges? ›

Lori Loughlin, her husband Mossimo Giannulli, and Felicity Huffman all served time in prison for their involvement in the college admissions scandal. The latter actress served 11 days behind bars, while the Fuller House star spent less than two months in jail and her husband almost five months.

Who is Agustin Huneeus? ›

Agustin Huneeus is the proprietor for Quintessa, one of the Napa Valley's most highly regarded wineries. One of the few vintners who has dedicated his entire professional life to the wine industry, Agustin began his more than 50-year career in the city where he was born — Santiago, Chile.

Where is coach Mike Riley now? ›

Michael Joseph Riley (born July 6, 1953) is an American football coach who is the head coach and general manager for the New Jersey Generals of the United States Football League (USFL).

Where is coach Chad Morris now? ›

South Florida

What happened to coach Chad Morris? ›

Former head coach Chad Morris has accepted a new position in college football. Morris, who formerly led SMU and Arkansas, announced he will join the University of South Florida as a senior offensive analyst.

Is Lori Loughlin still rich? ›

As of September 2021, Celebrity Net Worth estimates that the mother of two is worth a whopping $70 million. Loughlin is best known for her role as Aunt Becky on the original Full House, but she continued to consistently act and model following the series finale in 1995.

What happened to the Stanford sailing coach? ›

Vandemoer landed well, all things considered. He did no jail time. He lost his job but kept his marriage, and a C.E.O. he knew through sailing hired him to help design potable water systems—arguably a more socially beneficial endeavor than the Stanford sailing team.

Who is John B Wilson? ›

Wilson, a former business executive, was convicted in October on bribery charges and sentenced to 15 months in prison. He was accused of agreeing to pay more than $1.5 million to have his three children admitted to the University of Southern California, Harvard and Stanford.

How much did Rick pay Riddell per test? ›

Specifically, Williams and Dvorskiy allowed Riddell to take the exams in place of the students; to give the students the correct answers during the exams; or to correct the students' answers after they completed the exams. Singer typically paid Riddell $10,000 for each test.

Who is Mark Riddell married to? ›

How much money did USC give Riley? ›

USC paid $4.5 million for Riley's buyout; $1.08 million for defensive coordinator Alex Grinch; $360,000 for outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons; $141,000 for cornerbacks coach Roy Manning; and $129,000 for strength coach Bennie Wylie.

Why was Jack Jones kicked out of USC? ›

He was dismissed from the USC program after the 2017 season due to academic concerns and spent 2018 out of football at Moorpark College, though he did not play football at the junior college program. Jones was also arrested in 2018 and initially charged for breaking into a Panda Express in June 2018.

How much did Lincoln Riley get paid at USC? ›

Lincoln Riley, USC: $10 million (estimated salary) 3.

What is the easiest University of California to get into? ›

Thus, the easiest college to get into among the schools in the UC system is the University of California, Merced, with an undergraduate acceptance rate of 87%. This is followed by the University of California, Riverside, which has an undergraduate acceptance rate of 65%.

What to do if no college accepts you? ›

Here is what you can do if you don't get accepted anywhere.
  1. Apply to a Community College. If you are determined to attend school in September, use a community college as your next step. ...
  2. Consider a Gap Year. ...
  3. Find a Job That Enhances Your Application. ...
  4. Look Into Trade Schools. ...
  5. Wait Until You Can Reapply.

What is the lowest GPA to get into USC? ›

You should also have a 3.79 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as USC, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We'll cover those details next.

Is USC still prestigious? ›

University of Southern California is ranked #25 out of 443 National Universities. Schools are ranked according to their performance across a set of widely accepted indicators of excellence.

What is considered low income for USC? ›

Your family must also have an annual income of $80,000 or less, with typical assets.

Is USC generous with financial aid? ›

Fortunately, USC offers a range of generous financial aid packages in the form of scholarships, grants, and more. If you're interested in applying to USC but wondering how you'll pay for it, we've got you covered.

What University has the hardest acceptance rate? ›

Harvard University — 3.19%

With a record-low admission rate of just 3.19% for the class of 2026, Harvard currently ranks as the most difficult school to get into.

Can I get into Southern University with a 2.0 GPA? ›

Must be enrolled at Southern University at Shreveport. Must have at least a cumulative 2.0 High School GPA, GED and/or College 2.0 GPA. Must major in one of the following: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Allied Health, and/or Education.

Can I get into USC with a 4.0 GPA? ›

#1: Get a High GPA

Admitted applicants to USC typically have very strong GPAs. For the fall 2022 class, the 25th/75th percentile high school GPA range was 3.82-4.0. This means that the majority of admitted applicants had relatively strong grades, getting mostly or all As and possibly a few Bs.

Why were Alabama's wins vacated? ›

The ruling gave Alabama 29 total vacated wins in its program's history. The team had to vacate eight victories from the 1993 season due to playing an ineligible player. Since 2000, only one other SEC team -- Ole Miss, which vacated 33 wins from 2010-16 -- has had to vacate any amount of wins.

What is Reggie net worth? ›

Reggie Bush Net Worth
Net Worth:$25 Million
Date of BirthMar 2, 1985 (37 years old)
Place of BirthSpring Valley
GenderMale
Height6 ft (1.83 m)
2 more rows

How much was Reggie Bush paid? ›

Reggie Bush Charity Work
Age33 years
ResidenceNew Orleans, Lousiana
Source of wealthProfessional NFL player (retired), Endorsements
Cumulative salary earnings$63.2 million over 11 seasons
Endorsement earnings$5 million in 2012*
3 more rows

Who are the parents in the college admissions scandal? ›

Prosecutors have charged dozens of people with participating in the college admissions scandal. The parents charged include the actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. Coaches and test administrators were also among the people charged. Here's the full list.

What happened to Michelle Janavs? ›

College admissions scandal: Hot Pockets heiress sentenced to five months in prison. Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs was sentenced Tuesday to five months in prison for paying a fixer to get her daughters into the University of Southern California.

Did Lori Loughlin's daughters graduate from USC? ›

The daughters of two of the most prominent parents accused in a national college-admissions scandal are no longer attending the University of Southern California, according to university officials.

Where is Morrie Tobin now? ›

Morrie Tobin, 57, who resides in Los Angeles, Calif., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton to one year and one day in prison, two years of supervised release and ordered to pay a fine of $100,000 and forfeiture of $4 million.

Who got in trouble for the college admissions scandal? ›

Lori Loughlin to Plead Guilty in College Admissions Scandal

The actress Lori Loughlin has agreed to plead guilty and to serve two months in prison. Her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, a fashion designer, is expected to serve five months.

Who went to jail for operation varsity blues? ›

Sentences in the scandal to date range from one day in prison for a former Stanford University sailing coach to 15 months in prison for one parent, former senior Staples executive John Wilson. Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison, while Huffman was sentenced to 14 days.

When did the college admissions scandal break? ›

It's been two years since Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman and several college coaches and officials were indicted in the nationwide college admissions scandal on March 12, 2019.

Where is Manuel Henriquez now? ›

Hercules Capital founder Manuel Henriquez has been sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to paying bribes to get his daughters into elite colleges.

Did Olivia Jade get kicked out of USC? ›

Some media outlets had reported that Giannulli dropped out of USC due to fears of being "viciously bullied"; however, a university spokesperson later confirmed that Giannulli remained enrolled at the school.

How much time did Lori Loughlin's husband get? ›

Giannulli was sentenced to five months in prison, ordered to serve two years of supervised release, perform 250 hours of community service and pay a $250,000 fine.

Who is Morrie Tobin? ›

According to the SEC's complaint, Morrie Tobin, a California resident, secretly controlled and owned substantially all of the stock in two public companies, Environmental Packaging Technologies Holdings, Inc.

Videos

1. Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal - Official Trailer - 2021 Movie
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2. Parents found guilty in college admissions scandal
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3. Two Parents Convicted In College Admissions Scandal Trial
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4. Former KFMB Stations owner Elisabeth Kimmel sentenced in Operation Varsity Blues college admissions
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5. A Look Inside the Varsity Blues College Admissions Cheating Scandal | Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative
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6. Why Felicity Huffman ‘Felt Like a Terrible Mom’
(Inside Edition)

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