Private Equity Investor Sentenced to 15 Months in College Bribery Case

So neither being a Prince nor a private equity $ billionaire can save someone from the long reach of the Law of Cause & Effect that we continually see play out on life’s stage yet may be quickly forgotten. 

While we say the words “What Goes Around Comes Around,” it is just the current nomenclature for the Law of Cause & Effect, the fundamental Law of all nature and science, reflected recently in the life of Prince Andrew and  John Wilson.

In John’s case, the thing is that his kids were good students! They would have gotten into fine colleges that were appropriate for them and most likely had memorable college experiences. Hopefully they still will and be stronger for the experience. This was not their fault. 

But what was it that drove John Wilson to absolutely have to get them into the top universities in the country? Was it for them? Or, was it for his  bragging rights, his self esteem, that caused him to take such a risk and put himself in the hands of this huckster, Singer? The best thing that can be said about him is that he wasn’t the only fool. And now he has the results. 

Just points out how poorly taught we are that the words of the title are not just a silly idea, but rather the rock solid truth! 

Private Equity Investor Sentenced to 15 Months in College Bribery Case

Prosecutors said John Wilson, 62, of Lynnfield, Mass., paid more than $1.2 million to ensure that his three children would be admitted to elite universities as purported Division I athletic recruits.

John Wilson, the founder of a private equity firm, paid more than $1.2 million to have his children admitted as athletes to U.S.C., Harvard and Stanford.
Credit…Josh Reynolds/Associated Press

A private equity investor who paid more than $1.2 million to secure the admission of his three children to elite universities as purported athletic recruits was sentenced on Wednesday to 15 months in prison, the longest sentence yet in the nationwide college admissions bribery case, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors said the investor, John Wilson, 62, of Lynnfield, Mass., conspired to use fraud and bribery to ensure that his children would be admitted to the University of Southern California, Harvard University and Stanford University as Division I athletic recruits — even though prosecutors said they wouldn’t have qualified based on their athletic credentials.

In addition to the prison term, Mr. Wilson was ordered to serve two years of supervised release, complete 400 hours of community service and pay a $200,000 fine. Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton of U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts also ordered him to pay $88,546 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

In October, Mr. Wilson was convicted by a federal jury in Boston of eight charges, including two counts of federal programs bribery and one count of filing a false tax return.

Mr. Wilson and another parent, Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive from Las Vegas, had been the first people to stand trial in the federal investigation known as Operation Varsity Blues. Others charged in the case, such as the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, chose to plead guilty rather than take their chances before a jury.

Last week, Judge Gorton sentenced Mr. Abdelaziz to one year and one day in prison, which at the time was the longest sentence handed down in the case. Prosecutors said Mr. Abdelaziz had agreed in 2017 to pay $300,000 to secure his daughter’s admission to U.S.C. as a fake basketball recruit, even though she had not played basketball for more than a year.

More than 50 parents, coaches and others have been charged in the case, which, prosecutors said, was engineered by a corrupt college consultant, William Singer, who has been cooperating with federal investigators since September 2018.

Prosecutors said Mr. Wilson agreed in 2013 to pay Mr. Singer $220,000 to secure his son’s admission to U.S.C. as a water polo recruit based on fabricated swim times and awards.

Mr. Wilson then deducted those payments from his tax return by claiming they were a donation to Mr. Singer’s sham charity, the Key Worldwide Foundation, and “business consulting” expenses, prosecutors said.

Although Mr. Wilson’s son did play water polo, he was not good enough to compete for U.S.C., prosecutors said.

In 2018, Mr. Wilson agreed to pay Mr. Singer $1.5 million to have his twin daughters admitted to Harvard and Stanford as athletic recruits, even though the daughters, who were good students, were not college-level athletes, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Mr. Wilson to 21 months in prison, writing in a sentencing memorandum that his “failure to accept responsibility remains strident, and his brazen disregard for the truth continues.”

“After overcoming what he describes as a difficult childhood to attend Harvard Business School and achieve success as a business executive, there was no compelling reason, and no excuse, for Wilson’s behavior,” prosecutors wrote. “Driven by arrogance, and motivated by self-aggrandizement, Wilson was willing to do whatever it took to get what he wanted.”

Mr. Wilson’s lawyers had recommended a six-month sentence, saying he “deeply regrets” taking part in what Mr. Singer called a “side door” to the college admissions process reserved for athletic recruits.

“He regrets the negative impact his actions have had on the level of trust and confidence that people across America have in the college admissions process, and on the system of higher education in general,” Mr. Wilson’s lawyers wrote in their sentencing memorandum.

The lawyers added that Mr. Wilson was “sorry for any impact his actions may have had on those without financial resources,” and that he “particularly regrets the tremendous pain and humiliation he has caused his family.”

Mr. Wilson’s lawyers argued that he should not receive a harsher sentence than “people who behaved worse.” They said that of the 31 parents sentenced in the case, about half had received sentences ranging from no prison time to six weeks. The average sentence was less than three months, they said.

More than 70 supporters wrote to the court, praising Mr. Wilson’s character and charitable donations. Two of the letters came from members of the Kennedy family, Kerry Kennedy and Edward M. Kennedy Jr., who know Mr. Wilson as a neighbor in Hyannis Port, Mass., where he owns a home next to the Kennedy family estate.

On Wednesday, Noel Francisco, a lawyer for Mr. Wilson, said he would appeal the conviction. He argued that Mr. Wilson’s case was “fundamentally different” from others in the federal investigation because his children were “well qualified” for admission based on their actual credentials.

His son was “a nationally competitive water polo player who actually participated on U.S.C.’s water polo team during his freshman year,” Mr. Francisco said. “His daughters had perfect and near-perfect ACT scores.”

In addition, he said, Mr. Wilson’s money did not go to “personally enrich anyone at the school.”

“Making a donation to improve a qualified applicant’s chances of admission is a well-established process at colleges and universities across the country, and is still in use today,” Mr. Francisco said. “It is not a crime.”

Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A stable, positive, non preachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
Kirkus Reviews
Buy What Goes Around at Amazon

“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC

Private Equity Investor Sentenced to 15 Months in College Bribery Case

Private Equity Investor Sentenced to 15 Months in College Bribery Case

Here’s a head scratcher that I’m of two minds about as it relates to the subject in question, though either way it is a great, multiple illustration of “Cause & Effect” in action. On the one hand it is somewhat poetic that Jeff Zucker would have to fire Chris Cuomo for the “brother Andrew” matter, while he himself was hiding his own “peccadillo,” only to have that indiscretion revealed and have to “walk the plank” himself!

However, a rule is a rule is a rule and guess what? Yup! “What Goes Around Comes Around!”

One nuance of the situation for Jeff Zucker, was whether the fact that he was carrying around his own secret may be why he didn’t act more decisively on the Cuomo situation? Not to imply that it means he deserved the firing squad if it was true. But he had signed on to follow the rules and lead by example, which he was abusing at the same time that Chris was understating his role to help Andrew. But still, did he equivocate on Cuomo because in his own mind it seemed hypocritical? In the end, it is a small matter but interesting to contemplate nonetheless.

Colombo Family Crime Boss and 12 Others Are Arrested, Prosecutors Say

An indictment unsealed on Tuesday accuses the organization of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort a labor union.

Credit…Jesse Ward


For two decades, the leadership of the Colombo crime family extorted a Queens labor union, federal prosecutors said — an effort that continued unabated even as members of the mob clan cycled through prison, the family’s notorious longtime boss died, and as federal law enforcement closed in.

Over time, what began as a Colombo captain’s shakedown of a union leader, complete with expletive-laced threats of violence, expanded into a cottage industry, prosecutors said, as the Colombo organization assumed control of contracting and union business, with side operations in phony construction certificates, marijuana trafficking and loan-sharking.

On Tuesday, 11 reputed members and associates of the Colombo crime family, including the mob clan’s entire leadership, were charged in a labor racketeering case brought by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn.

All but two of the men were arrested Tuesday morning across New York and New Jersey, prosecutors said. Another was surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday; another defendant, identified as the family consigliere, remained at large, prosecutors said.

The indictment accuses the Colombo family of orchestrating a two-decade scheme to extort an unnamed labor union that represented construction workers, using threats of violence to secure payments and arrange contracts that would benefit the crime family.

The charges are an ambitious effort by the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to take down one of the city’s five Mafia families. In addition to the union extortion scheme, which is the heart of the racketeering charge, the indictment charges several misdeeds often associated with the mob, including drug trafficking, money laundering, loan-sharking and falsifying federal labor safety paperwork.

Detention hearings for the defendants in Brooklyn federal court continued into the evening Tuesday, as they entered not-guilty pleas to the charges; prosecutors had asked the court to keep 10 of the defendants in custody.

“Everything we allege in this investigation proves history does indeed repeat itself,” Michael J. Driscoll, F.B.I. assistant director-in-charge, said in a statement. “The underbelly of the crime families in New York City is alive and well.”

Around 2001, prosecutors said, Vincent Ricciardo — a reported captain in the family, also known as “Vinny Unions” — began to demand a portion of a senior labor union official’s salary. When Mr. Ricciardo was convicted and imprisoned on federal racketeering charges in the mid-2000s, prosecutors said, his cousin continued to collect those payments.

Starting in late 2019, prosecutors said, the senior leadership of the Colombo family became directly involved in the shakedown, which extended to broader efforts to siphon money from the union: for example, manipulating the selection of union health fund vendors to contract with entities connected to the family, and diverting more than $10,000 each month from the fund to the family.

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Andrew Russo, 87, who prosecutors describe as the family boss, is accused of taking part in those efforts, as well as a money-laundering scheme to send the proceeds of the union extortion through intermediaries to Colombo associates. He was among nine defendants charged with racketeering.

Mr. Russo appeared in court virtually from the hospital Tuesday; he is set to be detained upon his release, pending a future bail hearing.

The family’s infamous longtime boss, Carmine J. Persico, died in federal custody in North Carolina in March 2019.

Federal law enforcement learned of the extortion scheme about a year ago, prosecutors wrote in a court filing Tuesday; investigators gathered thousands of hours of wiretapped calls and conversations recorded by a confidential witness, wrote the prosecutors, who also described law-enforcement surveillance of meetings among the accused conspirators.

The authorities said they repeatedly captured Mr. Ricciardo and his associates threatening to kill the union official. “I’ll put him in the ground right in front of his wife and kids,” Mr. Ricciardo was recorded saying in June.

On another occasion cited by prosecutors in the memo seeking his detention, Mr. Ricciardo directed the union official to hire a consultant selected by the Colombo family, saying: “It’s my union and that’s it.” Prosecutors said his activities were overseen by a Colombo soldier and the consigliere who remains at large.

Much of the activity outlined in the indictment took place while the defendants were either in prison or on supervised release for prior federal mob-related convictions. Theodore Persico Jr., described as a family captain and soldier, was released from federal prison in 2020 and, despite a directive not to associate with members of organized crime, “directed much of the labor racketeering scheme,” prosecutors said.

Mr. Persico, 58, is set to inherit the role of boss after Mr. Russo, prosecutors wrote.

Several of the defendants were named in what prosecutors described as a fraudulent safety training scheme, in which they falsified state and federal paperwork that is required for construction workers to show they have completed safety training courses.

One of the defendants, John Ragano — whom prosecutors say is a soldier in the Bonanno crime family — is accused of setting up phony occupational safety training schools in New York, which prosecutors said were “mills” that provided fraudulent safety training certificates to hundreds of people.

In October 2020, prosecutors said, an undercover law enforcement officer visited one of the schools in Ozone Park, Queens, and received, from Mr. Ricciardo’s cousin, a blank test form and an answer sheet; weeks later, the agent returned to pick up his federal safety card and paid $500.

The purported schools were also used for meetings with members of La Cosa Nostra — the group of crime families commonly known as the Mafia — and to store illegal drugs and fireworks, according to the indictment.

Mr. Ragano wasn’t charged on the racketeering count, although prosecutors also sought his detention pending trial. In addition to the racketeering count, several defendants, including Mr. Ricciardo and his cousin, were charged with extortion, conspiracy, fraud and conspiracy to make false statements.

William K. Rashbaum contributed reporting.


An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people identified in an indictment as members of the Colombo crime family. It is 11, not more than a dozen.