Former MGM Resorts executive Gamal Abdelaziz was sentenced Wednesday to one year and one day in federal prison for bribing his daughter’s way into the University of Southern California as a fake basketball recruit, marking an end to the first case in the nationwide “Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal to go to trial.
A Boston-based judge also sentenced Abdelaziz, 64, to two years of supervised release, 400 hours of community service and a fine of $250,000, following his October conviction on one count of fraud conspiracy and one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Prosecutors say Abdelaziz paid $300,000 in 2018 to have his daughter admitted to USC, in a scheme that included creating a basketball profile complete with a list of falsified awards and athletic honors to portray his daughter as an athletic recruit, even though she had not played basketball in over a year and was never a member of her high school’s varsity team.
The DOJ said Abdelaziz paid his bribe to the Key Worldwide Foundation, a fake charity run by college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer. Abdelaziz was tried alongside financier John Wilson, 62, of Lynnfield, Mass., in a four-week jury trial that ended with Abdelaziz and Wilson’s convictions. Singer, whom prosecutors have identified as the ringleader of the largest prosecuted fraudulent college admissions plot in U.S. history, pleaded guilty in 2019 to a combination of charges including racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, carrying combined penalties of up to 65 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines. Dozens of other parents and college officials have been charged in a wider DOJ investigation into the college admissions scheme—which federal officials call “Operation Varsity Blues”—including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
Abdelaziz’s penalty was heavier than those of several other parents implicated in the scandal, such as liquor magnate Marci Palatella, who was sentenced to just six weeks’ imprisonment for paying Singer $500,000 to have her son admitted to USC as a phony football recruit. Abdelaziz was severely penalized because he was “intimately involved in the lies at every step of his daughter’s fraudulent admission to USC,” according to prosecutors. Prosecutors said Abdelaziz lied to college counselors to hide his daughter’s admission to USC as a basketball recruit and oversaw the editing of his daughter’s college application and essay. Plus, unlike many parents charged in connection with the scheme, Abdelaziz did not plead guilty.