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Two wealthy parents appeal college bribery convictions

Two wealthy parents were sentenced to imprisonment in the massive college admissions corruption scandal.

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Two wealthy parents appeal college bribery convictions

They appealed their convictions Monday, claiming that they believed they were legitimately making donations to help their children get into top universities.

After prosecutors claimed they had paid bribes for college admissions, John Wilson and Gamal Abdullaziz were convicted in a jury trial. Both men were convicted for fraud and bribery. Wilson was also convicted of wire fraud, bribery and filing false tax returns.

These sentences are the longest ever handed down in the case. Wilson, 62, was sentenced for 15 months, and Abdelaziz 64 to one year.

These are the only parents to have been brought before a judge in the case that has involved nearly 60 parents and college athletics officials.

Both claimed they didn't know their money was being used to pay bribes. This argument they repeated in their appeals. Their lawyers claimed that they were led to believe that their money would be sent directly to colleges.

Wilson's lawyers stated that Wilson's donations were meant for universities and not individuals. "The universities can't be both the victims and beneficiaries of the bribes."

Wilson, a former executive at Staples Inc. who now heads a private equity company, was charged with paying $220,000 to get his son admitted as a water-polo recruit to the University of Southern California. Prosecutors claim that Wilson later paid $1 million more to get his daughters into Harvard and Stanford and then claimed part of the tax write-off.

Abdelaziz was a former casino executive who was accused of paying $300,000. to get his daughter into USC as an NBA recruit. She didn't make it onto the varsity basketball team at her high school.

They appeal asking for an acquittal or a fresh trial.

Both men claim they were victims of William "Rick", an admissions consultant. They allege that Singer made them believe the payments were for legal donation, and then used the money to pay bribes. Singer pleaded guilty to the charges and is cooperating in the investigation.

Wilson claims that Singer repeatedly described his donation strategy to be legitimate. Singer, however, took $100,000 from Wilson's $220,000 payment to USC.

They argue in their appeals that the trial judge incorrectly blocked evidence that could have strengthened their defenses.

The judge ruled that Singer's plan was legal and legitimate, according to their lawyers. Abdelaziz's lawyers claim that the judge blocked evidence proving that USC admitted students regularly through its athletic department in return for donations.

Both men criticized prosecutors for suggesting that Wilson and Abdelaziz were related to other parents in this case, even though they weren't aware of the scheme and didn't know Singers’ other customers.

"Wilson had to convince the jury that he was not only good-faithful but also an outlier. His lawyers wrote that this added a burden, if it was not insurmountable.

Prosecutors argued that the men knew their payments were intended to help their children get into college as athletes recruits with embellished credentials. Singer had sent Wilson a water-polo profile, which listed fake swim times and awards.

Wilson's lawyers claimed that Wilson never saw the email with the athletic profile. They countered that Wilson's son was an accomplished waterpolo player and was selected as an All-Star in his conference.

According to the appeal, his son trained and practiced with the USC team all through his freshman year. He only left after sustaining a severe concussion. The brief stated that he was "just like the rest of us" and his teammates agreed.

Wilson also denied any wrongdoing with his daughters' college application. According to the filing, the twins had "perfect and nearly perfect ACT scores" and were not depicted as athletes. Wilson wanted to give them non-player roles on Harvard and Stanford's sailing and crew teams. Wilson said that one of his daughters was a sailor and that the sport "suited their interests."

Prosecutors pointed out a conversation between Wilson, Singer that was captured on an FBI wiretap. Wilson was discussing options for his daughters and asked, "Is it a two-for-1 special?" If you got twins?"

Wilson called Singer and asked him which sport would be the best for his twin girls. Singer said it didn't matter and that he would make them "sailors or something" since Wilson owned a Cape Cod home.

Abdelaziz also created a fake athlete profile for his daughter. However, his lawyers claim there is no evidence that he ever saw it. According to the filing, Abdelaziz admitted that his daughter wasn't a Division I basketball player but said she played basketball in her first two high school years and it was still one of her interests.

The majority of other defendants in the scheme have pleaded guilty and served their sentences. Felicity Huffman, star of "Desperate Housewives", was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment . Lori Loughlin, star of "Full House", was sentenced to two months while her husband Mossimo Giannulli, was sentenced to five months.


 

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