Posted on: February 8, 2022, 03:47h.
Last updated on: February 8, 2022, 03:47h.
A former casino executive found guilty of fraud in the 2019 college admissions scandal should face the longest sentence of all 33 parents charged in the case, federal prosecutors have said.
Gamal Abdelaziz arrives for a hearing of his fraud trial at a Boston courtroom in October. Feds say his participation in compiling a bogus USC application and persistent refusal to admit culpability warrants a stiff sentence. (Image: AP)
In a memo to the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts, filed Friday, lawyers for the US government recommended Gamal Abdelaziz serve 14 months of incarceration and 24 months of supervised release. They also said he should pay and a $250,000 fine and serve 400 hours of community service.
A Boston jury convicted Abdelaziz in October of fraud and bribery conspiracy. Jurors agreed that the former Wynn Resorts president and MGM Resorts CEO paid $300,000 to corrupt college admissions consultant William Singer with knowledge it would be used for bribery.
This was to get his daughter into the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit, even though she didn’t make her high-school varsity team.
Prosecutors argue that Abdelaziz deserved a harsher sentence because, unlike other parents, he was directly involved with Singer in producing fraudulent documents to aid his daughter’s application.
They also cited his “repeated lies,” which they said were designed to “cover up his crimes.”
“After continually arguing to a jury that the FBI ‘framed’ him and that the charges against him were a ‘set up,’ he was convicted on all counts,” reads the memo. “Even to this day, at sentencing, the defendant lodges “not credible” and “not believable” objections to facts establishing his culpability, and he accepts no responsibility for his conduct.”
The seriousness of the defendant’s crimes and his deep involvement in the bribery and fraud scheme justify a meaningful term of incarceration,” it adds.
Singer ran a California-based business called The Key that mingled legitimate services with his fraudulent admissions scam. The latter involved bribing coaches and administrators at elite universities to nominate the unqualified children of well-heeled parents as elite recruited athletes.
Embroiled parents included many prominent businesspeople, as well as the actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
Most pleaded guilty and received sentences ranging from one to six months in prison, among fines and other penalties.
Egyptian-born Abdelaziz was one of just two accused who contested the charges. His lawyers argued he was one of Singer’s victims. They claimed he was told the $300,000 payment was simply a “donation” to USC that might help his application and was unaware it was illegal.
But prosecutors produced recordings of telephone conversations showing that Abdelaziz helped create a phony athletics profile for his daughter. He even sent Singer a photograph of a basketball player who was not his daughter for use in the application.
Abdelaziz approved the final draft. He told Singer he “loved” the idea that the fake application was so convincing it could be used as a template for future fraudulent applications to USC.
At this point, the FBI had caught up with Singer and he was cooperating with the US government.
Having lifted himself from poverty in Egypt to become a successful business executive who saw his first two children attend prestigious universities on their own merit, the defendant had no need to rely on cheating, lies, and bribery to secure his third child’s admission to college. And he knew better,” prosecutors said.
“Whatever misguided reasons motivated him — love for his child, self-aggrandizement, or simply the spoiled desire to secure for his daughter something she wanted but could not herself achieve — the defendant was fully aware, at the time he was committing crimes, that what he was doing was wrong. And that is why he repeatedly agreed to lie to cover it up.”
Abdelaziz is scheduled to be sentenced later this month.