College Admission Scandal: Trial Begins for Fathers Facing Charges of Bribery

Photo: (Photo : Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Two fathers charged in the college admission scandal will finally get their day in court more than two years after the scam exposure.

John B. Wilson, 62, of Lynnfield, and Gamal Aziz, 64, of Las Vegas, who allegedly participated in the Operation Varsity Blues program, are the first two defendants to face the jury of the U.S. District Court in Boston.

In 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) charged 56 affluent and influential parents, including Wilson and Aziz, for paying off William "Rick" Singer, who ran a college counseling company, so that their children could enroll at elite universities without the benefit of taking an actual entrance exam. However, 46 of the parents were subjected to judicial transactions to avoid a trial, including Hollywood stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

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Wilson and Aziz's Alleged Crimes

Wilson, the founder of a successful real estate and private equity firm in Massachusetts, allegedly paid more than $1.7 million to Singer so that his three children could attend the University of Southern California as athletic recruits. Aziz, who worked as a casino boss, paid Singer $300,000 so his daughter could get in as a basketball varsity player. None of the students had the athletic ability to land a place in the school's teams.

However, the fathers' lawyers will argue in front of the jury that Singer conned them into giving money, which they thought were donations to support the school's athletic programs.

On the other hand, Singer was charged with money laundering, bribes, and faking his tax returns. He has pleaded guilty to the charges and cooperated with the FBI in going after the parents. He will be the prosecution's star witness in this college admission scandal.

According to the East Bay Times, the trial will be live-streamed via Zoom, but the fathers' lawyers have filed for a motion to stop the broadcast as it could turn "into a media frenzy" and involve the jurors in an "onslaught of media coverage." The lawyers also argued that the witnesses might no longer be willing to testify if there's a live broadcast when cameras aren't usually allowed in federal courts, pre-pandemic.

However, the prosecutors criticized the motion, saying that this is another display of "spoiled-brat syndrome" when the press should have access to what happens in court as the scandal impacts on a national scale. Jury selection has started on September 8, with the first court date set on September 13.

Wilson Sues Netflix

In April, Wilson and his wife, Leslie Wilson, also filed a lawsuit against Netflix for airing the college admission scandal documentary. The family said that the film destroyed their reputation, implying that they were guilty of the crime.

However, Wilson said that their case is different from the other parents who were arrested and charged and subsequently admitted to the bribery. His lawyers said that the Wilson children are talented individuals who can pass the college entrance exams on their own.

The family is seeking an apology, as well as monetary damages from the streaming giant. The case remains in court, with Netflix refusing to comment on the charges as it's still active.

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