Man who paid $1.2 million to secure children’s admission to Stanford, USC and Harvard gets longest jail term to date in college scandal

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A Massachusetts man who paid more than $1 million to secure his children’s admission to elite universities as ‘athletic recruits’ has received the longest sentence yet in the college scandal Varsity Blues.

John Wilson, 62, of Lynnfield, was sentenced by a U.S. District Court judge on Wednesday to 15 months in prison, two years on probation, 400 hours of community service and a $200,000 fine. The private equity investor and former senior Staples executive was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $88,546 to the IRS.

Wilson paid more than $1.2 million to secure the admission of his three children to Harvard University, the University of Southern California and Stanford University as so-called sports recruits of the Division I.

The 15-month sentence in the Varsity Blues case topped the previous lengthy sentence of 12 months and 1 day, which was handed down last week against former Wynn Resorts executive Gamal Abdelaziz.

In 2013, Wilson agreed to pay William “Rick” Singer $220,000 to facilitate his son’s admission to USC as a would-be water polo recruit. The scheme involved introducing Wilson’s son to the USC athletic admissions subcommittee using a water polo profile that included fabricated credentials, awards and swim times.

After Wilson’s son was accepted to USC, Wilson wired: $100,000 to Singer’s bogus charity Key Worldwide Foundation; $100,000 to Singer’s company, The Key; and $20,000 directly to Singer.

Wilson paid the bribe from his private investment firm’s business account and falsely deducted part of it as a business expense and the rest as a charitable contribution.

Then, in 2018, Wilson agreed to pay Singer $1.5 million to secure admission for his twin daughters to Harvard University and Stanford University as so-called athletic recruits.

Wilson in October was convicted by a federal jury of one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud; one count of conspiracy to corrupt federal programs; three counts of wire fraud and honest services wire fraud; two counts of bribery in connection with federal programs; and one count of filing a false tax return.

Wilson’s attorney said he would appeal the conviction.

“John Wilson’s case is fundamentally different from others in Varsity Blues,” his attorney Noel Francisco said in a statement. “First, his children were well qualified to be admitted on their own. His son was a strong student and nationally competitive water polo player who actually competed on the USC water polo team in his freshman year. Her daughters had perfect and near-perfect ACT scores.

“Secondly, none of John’s funds came to personally enrich anyone at school; instead, his payments were for schools and their athletic programs,” his lawyer added. “Donating to improve a qualified candidate’s chances of admission is a well-established process at colleges and universities across the country, and it is still used today. It’s not a crime. We look forward to presenting a powerful appeal to the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. »

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