BOSTON (AP) — The first trial in the college admissions bribery scandal opened Monday with defense attorneys seeking to portray the two parents accused of buying their kids’ way into school as victims of a con man who believed their payments were legitimate donations.
Defense attorneys said former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz and former Staples and Gap Inc. executive John Wilson never discussed paying bribes. They were assured by the admissions consultant at the center of the scheme that what they were doing was a perfectly legal practice to give children of parents with deep pockets a leg up in admissions, the defense said.
“It’s not illegal to give money to schools with the hope that it helps your kid get in,” Abdelaziz’s attorney, Brian Kelly, told jurors in his opening statement. “No one ever said bribery to him.”
The first trial in the so-called “Operation Varsity Blues” case is getting underway in Boston’s federal court more than two years after prosecutors arrested 50 parents, athletic coaches and others in the scheme that embroiled elite universities across the country.
Thirty three other parents have pleaded guilty, including TV actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli.