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Private equity investor sentenced to 15 months in college bribery case

A private equity investor paid more than $1.2 million to secure the admission of his three children to elite colleges as targeted sports recruits, prosecutors say. target Wednesday, was sentenced to 15 months in prison, the longest sentence in a nationwide college admissions bribery case, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the investor, John Wilson, 62, of Lynnfield, Mass., conspired to use fraud and bribery to ensure that his children would gain admission to the University of Southern California, Harvard University and Stanford University as Division I athletic recruits – although prosecutors said they would not be eligible based on their athletic credentials.

In addition to the prison sentence, Mr. Wilson was ordered to serve two years of supervised release, complete 400 hours of community service and pay a $200,000 fine. Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts also ordered him to pay $88,546 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

In October, Mr. Wilson was convicted by a federal jury in Boston of eight counts, including two counts of bribing federal programs and one count of false tax returns.

Mr. Wilson and another parent, Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive from Las Vegas, are the first to appear in court in the so-called federal investigation. Operation Varsity Blues. Others charged in the case, such as actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, chose to plead guilty rather than accept their chances before a jury.

Last week, Judge Gorton sentenced Mr. Abdelaziz up to a year and a day in prison, which at the time was the longest sentence handed down in the case. Prosecutors say that in 2017, Abdelaziz agreed to pay $300,000 to secure his daughter’s admission to USC as a fake basketball recruiter, even though she hadn’t played more basketball. a year.

More than 50 parents, coaches and others have been charged in the case, which prosecutors say was designed by a corrupt college consultant, William Singer, who collaborated with the federal investigator as of September 2018.

Prosecutors say Wilson agreed in 2013 to pay Singer $220,000 to secure his son’s admission to USC as a water polo player based on swimming numbers and fabricated prizes.

Mr. Wilson then deducted those payments from his tax return by claiming they were a donation to Mr. Singer’s fake charity, the Key Worldwide Foundation, and the cost of “consulting” business,” prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said that although his son Wilson played water polo, he was not good enough to enter USC.

In 2018, Mr. Wilson agreed to pay Mr. Singer $1.5 million to have his twin daughters admitted to Harvard and Stanford as sports rookies, even though the daughters, who are academics gifted student, not a college-level athlete, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors asked the court to sentence Mr Wilson to 21 months in prison, writing in the sentencing memo that “his refusal to accept responsibility remains stubborn, and his brazenness continues”.

“After overcoming what he described as a difficult childhood to attend Harvard Business School and achieve success as a business executive, there was no excuse,” the prosecutors wrote. There is no persuasion and no justification for Wilson’s conduct.” “Driven by arrogance and driven by conceit, Wilson is willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants.”

Mr. Wilson’s attorneys recommended a six-month sentence, saying he “deeply regrets” participating in what Mr. Singer called a “side door” to the college admissions process exclusively for new graduates. sports soldiers.

“He regrets the negative impact his actions have had on the level of trust and confidence that people across the United States have in the college admissions process and higher education system. general education,” Wilson’s attorney wrote in their memo.

The lawyers added that Mr. Wilson “apologizes for any impact his actions may have on those without the financial resources,” and that he is “particularly sorry for the pain and loss of life.” the great humiliation he has inflicted on his family.”

Mr. Wilson’s lawyers argued that he should not receive a harsher sentence than “those who behaved worse.” They said that of the 31 parents convicted in the case, about half received sentences ranging from no jail time to six weeks. They say the average sentence is less than three months.

More than 70 supporters wrote to the court, praising Mr. Wilson’s character and charitable donations. Two of the letters came from members of the Kennedy family, Kerry Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy Jr., who knew Mr. Wilson as a neighbor in Hyannis Port, Mass., where he owned a home next to the Kennedy family estate.

On Wednesday, Noel Francisco, Mr. Wilson’s attorney, said he would appeal the verdict. He argued that Mr Wilson’s case was “fundamentally different” from others in the federal investigation because his children were “qualified” for admission based on their actual credentials.

His son is “a national competitive water polo player who actually joined the USC water polo team in his freshman year,” said Francisco. “His daughters have perfect and near perfect ACT scores.”

In addition, he said, Mr. Wilson’s money was not used to “personally enrich anyone at the school.”

“Contributing to a qualified candidate’s chances of being admitted is a well-established process at colleges and universities across the country and is still in use today,” said Francisco. nowadays. “It’s not a crime.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/16/us/varsity-blues-sentence-john-wilson.html Private equity investor sentenced to 15 months in college bribery case

Fry Electronics Team

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