A former Wynn Resorts executive sentenced to 13 months in prison for his role in the college admissions bribery scandal appealed his conviction Monday.
Gamal Abdelaziz, also known as Gamal Aziz, was found guilty of fraud and bribery conspiracy by a jury in Boston in October. He paid $300,000 to corrupt admissions consultant William Singer to get his unqualified daughter into the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit.
Egyptian-born Abdelaziz was CEO of Wynn Resorts Development until he left the casino business in 2016. Previously he was president and COO of MGM Resorts International.
His was the second longest sentence doled out to the 33 parents charged in sprawling fraud case, and only one of two to go to trial.
Ultimately, the jury did not buy Abdelaziz’s assertion that he was an innocent victim of Singer’s and that he believed the money was a legal donation, not a bribe.
Singer ran a business called The Key that mixed legitimate services with his fraudulent admissions racket. Since his arrest in 2018, he has been cooperating with the FBI and testifying against his former clients. He has admitted bribing university coaches and administrators to nominate the children of wealthy parents as athletes.
Most of the parents received sentences ranging from one to six months in prison, among fines and other penalties. They included the actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
In his appeal filing, lawyers for Abdelaziz reiterate that their client was unaware the payment he made would be used as a bribe. They say he believed it would go directly to colleges. In this, he is no different from other parents who make donations in the hope that they might be favored during the admissions process, they argue.
They also claim the judge blocked evidence showing that “USC regularly admitted students through the athletic department in exchange for donations.”
During the trial, prosecutors produced evidence that they argued indicated Abdelaziz helped Singer compile a bogus athletics profile for his daughter. He sent a photograph of a basketball player who was not his daughter for use in the application and approved the final draft.
Prosecutors called for a stiff sentence because they argued he refused to accept culpability and “responsibility for his conduct” and persistently claimed he was framed by the FBI.
The only other case to go to trial was that of John Wilson, a former Staples Inc. executive and the owner of a private equity firm, who also launched an appeal Monday. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison in February.
Both men are asking the court to overturn their convictions and order a retrial.
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