The first trial in the college admissions scandal will begin jury deliberation Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
Jurors will now decide if two men are guilty of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, the Associated Press reported.
It has been over two years since parents and coaches across the country were first arrested in the scheme to rig the competitive college admissions process.
Parents Gamal Abdelaziz and John Wilson each spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to falsify that their children were athletic recruits in order to gain admission to the University of Southern California (USC), Stanford, and Harvard with the help of “Operation Varsity Blues” ringleader and admissions consultant Rick Singer.
“These parents were not willing to take ‘no’ for an answer and to get to ‘yes,’ they crossed a line,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank to jurors in his closing argument Wednesday, the AP reported. “And in crossing that line, they broke the law.”
Abdelaziz, former chief operations officer of Wynn Resorts Development, is accused of paying Singer $300,000 to get his daughter into USC as a basketball recruit. Wilson, former chief financial officer of Staples, is accused of paying $220,000 to get USC’s water polo coach to admit his son as a recruit on the men’s team in addition to paying $1 million to get his two daughters admitted into Stanford and Harvard.
While these two parents wait on the jurors’ decision, nearly four dozen individuals involved in the scandal already pleaded guilty, the AP reported. Lawyers for Abdelaziz and Wilson painted the two as victims of Singer’s scheme, claiming they didn’t know about the bribes or falsified athletic profiles, rather thinking they made charitable donations to the schools.
“John is not part of Singer’s con,” Michael Kendall, Wilson’s attorney, told jurors, the AP reported. ‘There is no evidence, not even a hint, that John figured out Singer’s scam. The truth is simple: John is Singer’s victim, not once but twice.”
Prosecutors played jurors recorded phone calls between Singer and the parents to demonstrate their willingness to participate in the fraud, the AP reported.
Singer said to Wilson that it “doesn’t matter” when he asked what sports “would be best” for Wilson’s twin daughters and that he would “make them a sailor or something,” because Wilson lives in Cape Cod, the AP reported. “Is there a two for one special? If you got twins?” Wilson reportedly inquired, laughing.
Kendall said Wilson didn’t commit any crime for believing Singer when he said schools endorsed the “side-door” approach to grant his applicants admission, even though jurors may believe him to be “naïve” or “foolish,” the AP reported.
In another call, after Singer began cooperating with authorities in 2018 in exchange for a lesser punishment, Singer told Abdelaziz that the IRS was auditing his foundation in an attempt to catch parents admitting to the scheme.
Singer asked Abdelaziz if he was okay with not telling the IRS that his money was used to get his daughter into USC “even though she wasn’t a legitimate basketball player at that level,” and Abdelaziz responded, “of course,” the AP reported.
Abdelaziz’s attorney, Brian Kelly said prosecutors cherry-picked phone calls and refused to call key witnesses like Singer, the AP reported. “It’s all smoke and mirrors,” Kelly said regarding the prosecution’s case. “They don’t have the evidence to prove him guilty.”
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