An ex-executive at Staples Inc. was convicted of trying bribe his children to get into top universities. He was sentenced Wednesday to 15 months in federal prison. This is the longest sentence in the college admissions scandal.
John Wilson, 62 years old, was sentenced to two years of supervised release and 400 hours community service. He also received a $200,000 fine and $88,546 in restitution for the IRS. The sentence was handed down by Rachael Rollins, U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.
In all, 60 people were arrested in the “Operation Varsity Blues” investigation, which included athletic coaches from Yale, Georgetown, and other prestigious schools.
Wilson is the head of a Massachusetts private equity company. He was previously a top-ranking executive at Boston consulting firm Bain and Co. and San Francisco-based retail giant Gap Inc.
Wilson was accused in a $220,000 payment to designate his son as a USC waterpolo recruit. Wilson also paid $1 million to purchase his daughters’ admissions to Harvard and Stanford. Wilson then filed a false tax return, claiming a portion of the money as a tax write off.
Is there a special two-for-one? In a conversation captured on an FBI wiretap, Wilson asked Rick Singer, the admissions specialist at the heart of the scheme, “If you got twins?”
Wilson called Singer and asked him which sport would be the best for his twin girls. Singer said it didn’t matter and that he would make them “sailors or something” since Wilson owned a Cape Cod home.
Prosecutors wanted Wilson to be sentenced to a 21-month term of imprisonment. During trial, Wilson focused on FBI wiretaps that showed Wilson was involved in the scheme.
Wilson was convicted in October on fraud and bribery counts. Gamal Abdelaziz (a former casino executive was sentenced earlier this year to one year and one hour in federal prison. These two men were the only ones to be tried for the conspiracy.
Noel Francisco was the U.S. solicitor General under President Donald Trump. He stated that Wilson’s case was fundamentally different from others because his children were well-qualified for admissions with high grades and test scores.
Francisco also claimed that Wilson’s payments were made for schools and athletic programs, and not to enrich any individual.
He said, “Making donations to improve the chances of an applicant being admitted is a well-established practice at colleges and universities all over the country.” It is not a crime.
Numerous other defendants have pleaded guilty to the scheme and served their sentences. Felicity Huffman, star of “Desperate Housewives”, was sentenced for 14 days. Lori Loughlin, a star of “Full House”, was sentenced for two months. Mossimo Giannulli, her husband and fashion designer, was sentenced for five months.
Wilson claimed he didn’t know Singer was using his money to bribe him and exaggerate his athletic credentials for his children during his trial.
Singer’s lawyers, who had argued against a shorter sentence of six months in prison, painted Singer as a conman who manipulates parents and assures them that his work is legitimate and supported by schools.
Two members of the Kennedy family were among the friends and relatives who wrote to U.S. district Judge Nathaniel Gorton asking for leniency before Wednesday’s sentencing.
Edward M. Kennedy Jr., a son of the late Massachusetts senator and Kerry Kennedy, the wife of Robert F. Kennedy said that Wilson was a neighbor of theirs in Hyannisport, Cape Cod for many years.