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  • US college admissions scandal

Image source, ReutersImage caption, Aziz seen arriving in court for closing arguments earlier this week

Two wealthy fathers have been convicted of paying bribes to have their children admitted to elite universities by falsely posing as successful athletes.

A jury in Boston on Friday found ex-casino chief Gamal Aziz and private equity firm founder John Wilson guilty of bribery and fraud charges.

Sentencing is scheduled for February. They each face up to 20 years in jail.

The verdict marks the first trial conviction in the scandal, dubbed "Operation Varsity Blues" by officials.

More than 50 parents, coaches and school administrators are facing federal charges as part of the scandal. Others implicated in the nationwide plot – including celebrities Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman – have pleaded guilty to their crimes rather than stand trial.

Federal prosecutors accused Aziz of paying $300,000 (£220,000) in 2018 to have his daughter admitted to the University of Southern California (USC). The girl was admitted as a top basketball recruit, despite having failed to make her high school basketball team.

Wilson was found to have paid $220,000 in 2014 for his son to be admitted to USC as a water polo player. Officials say his son did play the sport, but not well enough to have been recruited.

He also offered to pay a $1.5m bribe for his twin daughters to be admitted to Stanford and Harvard.

Both men had argued that they had been duped by William Singer, who officials say was the mastermind of the plan. They argued that they did not know that the money being paid to Mr Singer would be used for bribes.

Mr Singer, who has not yet gone on trial and is co-operating with authorities, allegedly told parents he was able to secure admissions for their children through a "side door" at universities for athletes.

Both Aziz and Wilson are expected to appeal against the verdict.

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