Operation Varsity Blues: An appeals court overturns the convictions of two wealthy parents in college admissions fraud

Kathryn Taylor/Reuters

John Wilson, left, and Kamal Abdelaziz had their convictions overturned on appeal in the “Operation Varsity Blues” case.

(CNN) – Two parents found guilty in connection with a vast college admissions fraud scheme dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues” had their convictions overturned by an appeals court judge on Wednesday.

John Wilson and Kamal Abdelaziz were found guilty of multiple crimes in 2021. Conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraudA scheme Singer called a “side door” by paying scam mastermind Rick Singer hundreds of thousands of dollars to facilitate their children’s admission to the University of Southern California.

They are the first parents to be convicted in the scheme. Many wealthy parents, including actresses, participated in the project Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman, who pleaded guilty.

Now, according to court records, the convictions of Wilson and Abthelagis have been tossed on mostly technical grounds.

Circuit Court Judge Sandra Lynch on Wednesday vacated the mail and wire fraud charges against Abdelaziz and Wilson, saying “the district court erred in instructing the jury that the admission slots were property.”

The judge also reversed Wilson’s conspiracy charge, saying the government failed to prove either Abdelaziz or Wilson agreed to join the overarching conspiracy between Singer and his clients, court documents said.

“This variation prejudiced the defendants by allowing the government to introduce a substantial amount of powerful evidence regarding the wrongdoing of the other parents in which these defendants played no role, creating an unacceptable risk that the Abelazis and Wilson were convicted based on the conduct of others, not their own,” Lynch said.

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Wilson’s conviction for filing a false tax return was upheld, court documents state.

Despite vacating the sentences, Judge Lynch notes, “Nothing in this opinion should be construed as an endorsement of defendants’ conduct in seeking college admissions for their children.”

The decision marks a significant setback for prosecutors who in 2019 charged more than 50 wealthy parents and college athletic officials in connection with the nationwide scandal. Almost all of them He confessed to the crime Rather than taking cases to trial.

as Part of the projectSinger and his associates helped college applicants cheat on standardized tests, falsified their athletic applications, bribed those who decided which students to admit, and led parents to falsely report that the money was for charity.

According to authorities, Abdelaziz agreed to pay Singer $300,000 in 2017 in exchange for his daughter’s admission to USC for basketball recruiting. False athletic credentials.

Wilson agreed to pay $220,000 to facilitate her son’s admission to USC for water polo recruiting in 2013, and in 2018 she agreed to “pay Singer an amount, eventually totaling $1.5 million, for the admission of her twin daughters and admission to Harvard. Targeted at athletic recruiting,” the court said. The documents say.

Wilson was sentenced to 15 months in prison and Abdelaziz to 12 months.

Singer pleaded guilty to multiple charges and cooperated with the government Sentenced to 3.5 years imprisonment.

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