The jury selection process for the case against Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, and John Wilson, a former executive at Staples Inc. and Gap Inc. is underway in Boston federal court. They are accused of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to get their children into the University of Southern California.
Though they were among dozens of prominent parents, athletic coaches and others arrested across the country when the case exploded into the headlines over two years ago, theirs is the first to go trial.
Defense lawyers are expected to claim that they believed that their payments were legitimate donations, and that USC's treatment was routine for parents who have deep pockets.
Prosecutors claim that the defense is trying to confuse the waters in a case of fraud and lying.
A parade of wealthy parents pleaded guilty to paying large sums to get their children into schools with rigged scores or fake athletic credentials since March 2019. These parents include Felicity Huffman, Lori Loughlin, and Mossimo Giannulli, Loughlin’s husband and fashion designer husband. They were sentenced to probation or nine months in prison.
Prosecutors now have to convince a jury that the remaining two parents are guilty.
Abdelaziz, a Las Vegas resident, is accused in committing $300,000 to a bogus charity run by Rick Singer, an admissions consultant, to help his daughter get into USC as a basketball recruit. Prosecutors claim Abdelaziz signed a athletic profile that portrayed the girl as a star even though she did not make it to her high school's varsity basketball team.