Yale Daily News

On Oct. 8, a federal jury in Boston convicted two wealthy fathers charged with frauding admissions offices at elite universities, marking the first guilty verdicts in the “Operation Varsity Blues” admissions scandal.

Gamal Abdelaziz and John Wilson were the first of 57 people complicit in the nationwide “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal to face trial. After 11 hours of deliberation, Abdelaziz, a Las Vegas casino magnate, and Wilson, a former executive at Old Navy and Staples, were convicted of bribery and fraud. Wilson was also found guilty of filing a false tax return, deducting over $200,000 that he used to bribe his son’s way into the University of Southern California, or USC. 

Although Abdelaziz and Wilson’s bribery was affiliated with University of California and other institutions, 55 others are accused of paying bribes and awaiting trial. Yale centered prominently in the “Varsity Blues” scandal, after Rudolph “Rudy” Meredith — former head coach of the Yale women’s soccer team — was accused of accepting payments in exchange for designating applicants as recruits for the Yale women’s soccer team, thereby expediting their admission to Yale. 

The fate of Meredith, the only Yale affiliate currently facing charges under “Varsity Blues,” remains uncertain. Meredith pled guilty to two counts of wire fraud in Boston courts in 2019. He had to forfeit over $800,000 in accepted bribes, but he has yet to face sentencing.

“The verdict today proves that even these defendants, powerful and privileged people, are not above the law,” acting United States Attorney Nathaniel Mendell said.

Abdelaziz paid $300,000 for his daughter, who failed to pass the junior varsity level in high school, to snag a spot on the USC women’s basketball team. Wilson shelled out over a million dollars so his three children — a son and twin daughters — could matriculate to USC, Harvard and Stanford.

Abdelaziz and Wilson colluded with William “Rick” Singer, whose company Edge College & Career Network LLC served as the epicenter of the “Varsity Blues” scandal. The California-based Singer shuffled around millions of dollars to guarantee prestigious university admissions for rich students based on fraudulent means.

The defense argued that Singer deceived the men, who were unaware that Edge used illegal means. However, Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Frank urged the jury to be skeptical.

“These parents were not willing to take ‘no’ for an answer. They crossed the line,” Frank said in his closing argument. “And in crossing the line, they broke the law.”

Stars like Full House cast member Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli, as well as Oscar-nominee Felicity Huffman also collaborated with Singer. Loughlin and Giannulli leveraged their wealth to earn spots at USC for their two daughters, and Huffman paid to bolster her daughter’s SAT scores.

The three parties chose to plead guilty to bribery and fraud charges.

According to the University’s website, Meredith only provided fraudulent endorsement to two Yale applicants, only one of whom was admitted. Yale rescinded the young woman’s application in March of 2019.

Around 2015, Meredith began conspiring with Singer, accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to add unqualified applicants to his team’s roster. Yale announced Meredith’s resignation on Nov. 15, 2018.

University spokespeople did not respond to request for comment on the latest “Varsity Blues” verdict. In March 2019, when news of Yale’s implication in the scandal broke, University President Peter Salovey wrote a community-wide email calling the actions undertaken by Meredith, in coordination with Singer, “an affront to our community’s deeply held values of fairness, inclusion, and honesty.”

The University has since conducted an independent review of admissions procedures and created a new “code of conduct for athletic recruitment.”

Abdelaziz and Wilson will receive their sentences in February 2022.

Jordan Fitzgerald serves as a University editor for the News. She previously edited for WKND and wrote about admissions, financial aid & alumni. She is a senior in Trumbull College majoring in American history.