Former Casino Exec Defends $300K Feds Allege Was College Admissions Bribe
Posted on: September 14, 2021, 10:00h.
Last updated on: September 14, 2021, 02:35h.
Former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz — his last name often shortened to Aziz — went on trial this week in Boston for his alleged involvement in the 2019 college admissions bribery scandal.
Aziz amassed his vast wealth in the global gaming industry. The Egyptian-American businessman served in a number of senior executive capacities for some of the world’s most prominent casino companies. Aziz’s resume includes stints at Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts, and Wynn Resorts.
His most recent roles were president of Wynn Macau in China, and chief operating officer of Wynn Resorts Development. Aziz helped lead Wynn Resorts’ building of its $2.4 billion integrated resort in Everett, Ma., which is just miles from the Boston federal courthouse where he’s on trial.
No Crime in Being Charitable
Dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” the Department of Justice in 2019 revealed a widespread college admissions scandal led by Rick Singer and his Key Worldwide Foundation. Federal prosecutors say Aziz contracted Rick Singer to help his daughter gain acceptance into the University of Southern California (USC).
The feds say Singer orchestrated bribery schemes at various universities across the country. Those allowed the children of wealthy businesspersons and celebrities to fraudulently gain acceptance to prestigious colleges.
Singer pleaded guilty in 2019 to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and bribing coaches and athletic officials to admit students posing as fake athletic recruits. He additionally admitted to charges of racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, and obstruction of justice.
The DOJ says Aziz cut Singer’s Key Worldwide Foundation a $300,000 check-in 2018. His daughter was later accepted into USC as a basketball recruit.
Aziz attorney Brian Kelly said in his opening remarks that his client has done nothing wrong. He argues that the $300,000 of Aziz’s money that was contributed to USC was simply a philanthropic decision.
Giving money to a school with a hope that it gets your kid in is not a crime,” Kelly told jurors. “No one ever said bribery.”
Prosecutors say they won’t call Singer to the witness stand, something Kelly says throws doubt into their charges that Aziz did anything wrong.
“The case revolves around Rick Singer, the whole investigation, it’s why we’re here. And now the government says ‘nevermind, we’re not calling him.’ Think about that when you eventually deliberate,” Kelly urged jurors.
Dozens Admit Guilt
The Justice Department has charged 57 people in the college admissions scandal. Forty-six, including celebrities Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, have already pleaded guilty to illegally bribing their children’s way into a university.
Aziz’s trial is expected to last several weeks.
Singer is awaiting sentencing. The DOJ has recommended that Singer’s prison term be on the lower end of the government’s guidelines. He’s facing a maximum of 65 years in prison, as well as up to $1 million in fines.
Universities involved in the scandal, in addition to USC, include Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, and UCLA.
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