A casino executive in Las Vegas has been sentenced to prison for a college admissions scandal

Gamal Abdelaziz, 64, a former Wynn Resorts executive, is sentenced to one year in prison after being convicted of paying a $300,000 bribe as part of the college admissions scandal to secure the admission for his daughter in USC. That is the stiffest sentence handed out to date. He paid the bribe to secure his daughter’s admission to the USC (University of South California) as a basketball recruit.

His daughter has never played basketball for more than a year and wasn’t qualified for her high school’s varsity basketball team. He was part of a scam named Varsity Blues college admissions scandal where dozens of parents bribed and falsified entrance sore and qualifications to take admissions in top USA universities.

In 2019 a scandal rocked the USA academic world when a vast criminal conspiracy was revealed where parents bribed and falsified the documents and entrance scores to get admission at top universities in the USA.

A total of 53 people were involved in the conspiracy, out of which 33 were parents, including Gamal Abdelaziz. These parents paid more than $25 million between 2011 and 2018 to William Rick Singer, organizer of the scheme.

He used this amount to inflate entrance exam scores and bribe college officials. He used two sham firms; Key Worldwide Foundation and The Edge College & Career Network.

A statement from the Justice Department about Abdelaziz

Gamal Abdelaziz and John Wilson were accused of wire fraud. The prosecution (Department of Justice) argued that both used fraud and bribery to deprive universities of their property, i.e., the admission slot of the university.

The defense tried to counter it from pre-trials that the admission slots cannot be considered property per the wire or mail fraud category. But the Boston district court held for the prosecution, as the district judge Nathaniel M. Gorton denied the defense motion and held the prosecution’s argument, stating that admission slots are considered property in fraud charges quoting the 1997 case United States v. Frost.

Having his daughter admitted to USC cost $300,000 in 2018

In 2017 Abdelaziz wired $300,000 as a bribe to William Rick Singer to secure his daughter’s admission to USC as a purported basketball recruit. The singer then created a basketball profile for his daughter with a photo of a different athlete and falsified awards and athletic honors.

Another conspirator working at the university’s athletic department then used that fake profile to secure the admission of Abdelaziz’s daughter to USC as a basketball recruit. Abdelaziz sent the amount to Key Worldwide Foundation.

Other parents involved in this include celebrities like Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, Mossimo Giannulli, and Douglas M. Hope.     

A little about Abdelaziz

When he resigned from his post of president and the board director of Wynn Macau Ltd, he was worth around USD 5 billion, making him one of the richest people to get himself available for the positions in hospitality.

He was awarded a rank in hotel management by a hospitality school named Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) in December 2015 and was appointed in its international advisory board.

From 2017 March onwards, he became chairman and CEO of legacy Hospitality Group, which he is continuing. He is also associated with numerous other businesses and investments.

Abdelaziz’s Background

Gamal Aziz or Gamal Abdelaziz was born in 1957 in Egypt and grew up in Cairo. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business at the University of Cairo and then moved into Las Vegas, Nevada, where he is a resident

He held an executive position at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. He also was an active executive for other hotels, such as the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the Westin Hotel in Washington, D.C., and St. Francis in San Francisco.

He tried to attain the highest profiled positions, which he did as it was his underlying professional passion. He has three children.  

An executive at two casino operators Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts in Las Vegas

He came under the limelight when he encouraged Steve Wynn to open Bellagio- the most expensive hotel in the USA. He was assigned as the senior vice president, a post he held from 1998 to 2000. He oversaw the food and beverage division.

In the year 2000, when Bellagio became an MGM Mirage property, another asset went to MGM. In 2001, he became the president and chief operating officer of the grand resort named MGM Grand. With 5000 rooms and 10000 employees, MGM Grand was the largest hotel in the USA by rooms. He then became the President and COO of MGM Resorts International and then MGM Hospitality in September 2010.

During his tenure, he helped the group to finalize at least 27 other hotel projects. In January 2013, he was appointed as president and COO of Wynn Resorts Development LLC, where he has to oversee the expansion opportunities. He then became president of Wynn Macau Ltd, where he reported directly to Wynn.

In September 2016, he resigned as the president and board member of Wynn Macau.

A fake charity run by William “Rick” Singer & Abdelaziz financier John Wilson involved in the admissions scandal

Two fake charity firms of singer worked as a front for the whole scam. Parents like Abdelaziz and John Wilson paid the amount under donation to these firms. The singer used this amount to bribe university officials and other expenses of the scam.

John Wilson is the founder of Hyannis Port Capital. He paid $220,000 to secure his son’s admission to the University of Southern California in 2014 and another $1 million in bribes to have his twin daughters admitted to Harvard University and Stanford University in 2018. They never got admission as Stafford coach refused.

While the former was admitted as a water polo recruit, the latter was admitted as a sailing recruit. After Abdelaziz, Wilson was the next parent to be sentenced, receiving 15 months in prison.    

The attorney argued that Abdelaziz was deceived by Wilson

While Wilson’s prosecutor argued that he deserves more severe punishment, as his involvement was more extensive, there is another accusation against him, claiming that he deceived Abdelaziz. There is no evidence to back it, and both of their lawyers refused to respond.

Deceived or not, both these fathers are first to stand trial in this case and defend themselves by saying that the singer deceived them and believed that this was genuine donations. They thought that this was how USC treated rich parents, especially donors.

Prosecutors countered this by arguing that they turned the case into a trial on USC’s admissions policies. The singer pleaded guilty, is waiting for a sentence, and has agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

More severe punishment for Abdelaziz than the other parents in the scandal

Gamal Abdelaziz was sentenced to 1 year and one day in prison, with two years of supervised release, 400 hours of community services, and a fine of $250,000. He faced the longest of the trials in this case.

Out of 53 accused, only a few have received a sentence, including him. From celebrity parents to university staff and coaches, all have pleaded guilty and is awaiting trial and sentence in one of the longest and most scandalous cases to shake U.S. academia.  

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