Ex-Wynn, MGM Exec Accused in College Admissions Scandal in Jury Deliberation

Posted on: October 7, 2021, 12:56h. 

Last updated on: October 8, 2021, 01:49h.

A jury in Boston began deliberation Thursday on the case of a former Wynn Resorts president and MGM Resorts CEO charged with fraud in the 2019 college admissions scandal.

Gamal Abdelaziz
Gamal Abdelaziz, right, accompanied by his lawyer, arrives at a federal court in Boston for the first day of his trial on September 8. (Image: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

In closing arguments Wednesday, prosecutors said Gamal Abdelaziz “crossed the line” when he paid $300,000 to a corrupt admissions consultant, William “Rick” Singer. They claim the payment was a bribe to get his daughter into the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit, even though she didn’t even make her high-school varsity team.

Also on trial with Abdelaziz was John Wilson, a private equity financier accused of paying Singer $220,000 to get his son into USC as a water polo recruit. Later he paid an additional $1 million to buy his twin daughters into Harvard and Stanford, according to prosecutors.

Abdelaziz and Wilson were among 33 parents arrested in 2019 following an FBI investigation dubbed Operation Varsity Blues. These included prominent businesspeople and two well-known actors, Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

Most have pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from one to six months in prison, amongst fines and other penalties. But because Abdelaziz and Wilson contest the charges, this is the first criminal trial related to the scandal.

Defense Claims Fundraising Efforts

Defense lawyers have portrayed Abdelaziz and Wilson as Singer’s victims. They were profiled as anxious parents who were advised that making generous donations to prestigious universities would help their children’s applications, unaware it was against the law.

It’s not illegal to do fund-raising, not illegal to give money to a school in the hopes that your kid will get in,” said Brian Kelly, Abdelaziz’s lawyer, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Singer has pleaded guilty to all the charges against him. They include racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice.

He ran a California-based business called The Key that mingled legitimate services with his lucrative admissions scam. He has admitted using parents’ money to fraudulently inflate entrance exam test scores and bribe college officials, including sports team coaches.

He also told federal prosecutors he created bogus athletic profiles for his clients’ children, which he emailed to Abdelaziz and Wilson for approval. Both claim they missed the email.

Industry High-Flyer

Egyptian-born Abdelaziz held a senior executive position at Caesars Palace before joining Wynn Resorts, helping Steve Wynn launch the Bellagio in 1998.

In 2001, he became president and COO of the MGM Grand, and then president and COO of MGM Resorts International. In 2013, he rejoined Wynn as CEO of Wynn Resorts Development and later became head of the Wynn Macau. But he resigned shortly after the property opened for reasons that were not disclosed publicly.

He left the casino business in 2016 to become chairman of and CEO of Legacy Hospitality Group.