(NewsReady.com) – Federal authorities charged more than 50 people in Operation Varsity Blues, a scandal that came to light in 2019 and rocked the nation. Parents paid to have their children’s high school credentials falsified so they could get into prestigious universities. Two of the convictions have now been overturned.
On Wednesday, May 10, the First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the convictions of Gamal Abdelaziz and John Wilson. Their convictions for conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, as well as wire and mail fraud, were thrown out.
A former Wynn Resorts executive and private equity executive were previously charged for paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to get their kids into top universitieshttps://t.co/VBM1M6Kzbw
— Rolling Stone (@RollingStone) May 10, 2023
A 2021 press release from the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts revealed Wilson, a former Staples executive, agreed to give William “Rick” Singer $220,000 to help his son get into the University of Southern California (USC) as a water polo recruit. He also paid $1.5 million to get his twin daughters into Stanford University and Harvard University as athletes. Abdelaziz, the former CEO of MGM International, agreed to pay Singer $300,000 to get his daughter into USC as a basketball player.
Defense attorneys for the two men argued they were bamboozled. They thought their money was being used for legitimate donations to the schools and argued their clients were swept up in the larger operation.
Judge Sandra Lynch wrote the opinion for the court, according to the Boston Globe. She said the two men weren’t like the other parents involved in the scandal who knew they were making payments so their kids could cheat their way into the schools they wanted to attend. The court found that prosecutors should not have been allowed to introduce evidence about the wider Varsity Blues Scandal. That decision created “an unacceptable risk that the jury convicted” the man based on the conduct of other people.
Several high-profile celebrities, including Lori Loughlin, were convicted of crimes related to the scandal. It’s not clear how (or if) the ruling would have an effect on the convictions of other defendants.
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