Operation Varsity Blues parent sentenced to year in prison
United States District Court Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton sentenced Gamal Abdelaziz to one year and one day in prison for his role in the Operation Varsity Blues bribery scheme Wednesday — the longest sentence as a result of the scandal — according to a Department of Justice press release published the same day.
Abdelaziz, a former Las Vegas casino and resort executive, was also sentenced to two years of supervised release and 400 hours of community service and issued a $250,000 fine.
A federal jury convicted Abdelaziz Oct. 8 for conspiring to bribe USC coaches and other athletic officials to admit his daughter to USC as a “basketball recruit,” despite the fact that Abdelaziz’s daughter did not make her high school’s varsity team.
Abdelaziz was also convicted of committing mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud on one count. In March 2018, he wired William “Rick” Singer — the scheme’s facilitator who modified test scores to fraudulently admit students to elite schools as varsity athletes — a lump sum of $300,000 following his daughter’s official acceptance to the University, according to the press release.
Singer also coordinated with former associate senior athletic director Donna Heinel and former assistant women’s soccer coach Laura Janke to fabricate an athletic profile and secure Abdelaziz’s daughter’s acceptance.
Abdelaziz claimed he believed his donations to Singer were legitimate, but prosecutors cited secretly recorded phone calls between the two that show Abdelaziz’s knowledge of the scheme.
More than 50 parents have been charged in the scandal, including 18 in relation to USC. High profile names have faced shorter sentences, such as “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman who received 14 days in prison, one year of supervised release, 250 hours of community service and a $30,000 fine for her sentence. Released early, Huffman only served 11 days in prison.
“Full House” Actress Lori Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison, two years of supervised release, 100 hours of community service and ordered to pay a $150,000 fine. Her husband Mossimo Giannulli was sentenced to five months in prison, two years of supervised release, 250 hours of community service and a $250,000 fine.
Abdelaziz’s sentence, although the longest of all those given to other participants, is shorter than the maximum sentences for his convicted charges. Mail and wire fraud is punishable by a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Federal programs bribery provides for a sentence of up to five years’ imprisonment, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater.
Ahead of the sentencing, Abdelaziz’s lawyers wrote that the former resort executive should only receive four months in prison, arguing that Abdelaziz should not receive a longer term than others’ because he pleaded not guilty.
Abdelaziz’s lawyer Brian Kelly, a part of the Nixon Peabody firm, did not respond to the Daily Trojan in time for publication. According to the New York Times, Kelly said that he hopes to “vindicate” Abdelaziz through the appeals process.
Nixon Peabody has represented USC in past cases involving health care and intellectual property. Abdelaziz filed a request to use the law firm as his defense in June 2019, contending that there was no conflict of interest.
John Wilson, another parent convicted Oct. 8, will face sentencing Feb. 16.
USC declined to comment on Abdelaziz’s sentencing.