Oct. 8 (UPI) — A federal jury in Boston on Friday convicted two parents of committing fraud to get their children into prestigious colleges as part of the so-called Operation Varsity Blues scandal.
John Wilson, 62 and Gamal Abdelaziz, 64, each were found guilty of fraud and bribery conspiracy charges in the case. The jury deliberated for 10.5 hours beginning Thursday, The Boston Globe reported.
Wilson paid the ringleader of the scheme — William “Rick” Singer — $220,000 in 2014 to get his son admitted to the University of Southern California as a water polo recruit, and $1 million in 2018 to get his twin daughters designated as recruits in sports they didn’t play for admittance to Stanford and Harvard.
Abdelaziz, meanwhile, paid Singer $300,000 in 2018 to get his daughter admitted to USC as a basketball recruit despite not being on her high school’s varsity team.
Both Wilson and Abdelaziz said the money they paid Singer were legitimate donations to a charitable foundation.
Federal prosecutors, though, said the payments were bribes paid to get their children into schools they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to attend.
“These parents were not willing to take ‘no’ for an answer, and to get to ‘yes’ they crossed a line. In crossing that line, they broke the law,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank said during closing arguments, according to ABC News.
The two men were the first to stand trial among dozens implicated in the scandal. Other parents, including actors Felicty Huffman and Lori Loughlin, and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded guilty to charges.
Wilson is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 17 and Abdelaziz on Feb. 16.