Former casino executive Gamal “Aziz” Abdelaziz has been found guilty by a federal jury in Boston for his role in the Operation Varsity Blues college admissions scandal. His career includes C-level stints at Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts, and Wynn Resorts.
After some 10 hours of jury deliberations, Aziz was found guilty of buying his daughter’s way into the University of Southern California (USC). Federal prosecutors argued that the wealthy gaming executive paid a $300,000 bribe to have his child falsely recruited to the school’s women’s basketball program.
#BREAKING: The jury has reached a verdict in the college admissions trial involving John Wilson and Gamal Abdelaziz.
— U.S. Attorney MA (@DMAnews1) October 8, 2021
Rick Singer pleaded guilty in March of 2019 to masterminding an illegal college admissions network. That involved numerous university officials accepting bribes in exchange for recruiting students to their athletics programs under the false pretenses that they were highly talented athletes. Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering, and conspiring to defraud the United States. He’s awaiting sentencing as he continues to cooperate with federal authorities.
Aziz No Victim
During his trial, Aziz attorneys maintained that their client did nothing wrong. They argued that the casino businessman was simply the victim of Singer, and thought he was making a philanthropic contribution to USC.
Singer provided evidence to the contrary.
In one recorded telephone exchange, Singer informs Aziz that he successfully produced a fraudulent women’s basketball recruiting profile. The outline was so well done that the USC official being bribed encouraged Singer to use the same template in the future. “I love it,” Aziz responds to Singer in the call. Aziz’s daughter did not play on her high school basketball team.
The USC official the feds allege was involved in the bribe is Donna Heinel, a former senior associate athletic director at the university. Heinel has been charged with conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, aiding and abetting wire fraud, and other bribery-related charges. She’s awaiting trial.
Today’s jury verdict found Aziz guilty of fraud and bribery conspiracy charges. Aziz faces severe penalties.
If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both,” the statute reads.
Aziz is set to be sentenced in February, but his attorneys are expected to appeal the verdict.
Punishments to Date
The longest anyone involved in the college admissions scandal has been sentenced to prison so far has been nine months. That sentence was imposed in February of 2020 on Douglas Hodge, the former CEO of PIMCO. He pleaded guilty to bribing Georgetown University officials in exchange for accepting three of his children into the school. Hodge was released in March of this year.
The most high-profile cases in the Operation Varsity Blues saga are actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.
Loughlin served two months in prison, and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, did five months for their involvement in bribing USC to accept their daughter Olivia Jade. Huffman was sentenced to 14 days in prison for paying Singer to falsify an SAT exam on her daughter’s behalf.
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