Ex-Las Vegas Casino Executive Charged in College Admissions Case

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019 | Written by April Bergman
Ex-Las Vegas Casino Executive Charged in College Admissions Case

Gamal Aziz, a former executive at MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts, was one of the 44 parents charged in the sweeping college admissions bribery scandal. The scheme involved illegal payments by wealthy parents, including executives and Hollywood actresses, to athletic department officials to help their children receive special admissions into top-ranked colleges.

Gamal Aziz became a Wynn Resorts executive in 1998 and helped launch Bellagio, which was the most expensive casino-resort ever built in Las Vegas at the time. During his career, Aziz also served as the president of MGM Grand and the director of MGM Hospitality, MGM Resorts’ international division.

FBI investigators and US attorneys allege the Gamal Aziz, who was charged under the name Gamal Abdelaziz, paid $300,000 to a coach in the University of Southern California (USC) athletic department to help his daughter gain admissions as an athletic recruit. Others executives and luminaries paid for admissions into Georgetown, Stanford, and other prestigious schools across the United States.

Charges Against Gamal Aziz

Officials said the scheme required Gamal Abdelaziz to pay an up-front amount to help his daughter gain admissions, then make continuing payments to the official. The payments were arranged by Edge College & Career Network (often called “Key”), and a related nonprofit organization, the Key Worldwide Foundation, which acted as a third-party broker for the crooked deals.

Most media attention focused on actresses Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman being charged, but in all over 60 people were charged in the scandal. The list included 10 athletic officials, 4 test administrators, and 3 officials at Key.

FBI Probe of College Admissions Scam

U.S. Attorney for District of Massachusetts Andrew Lelling and FBI Special Agent in Charge Boston Division Joseph Bonavolonta announced the charges in a press conference on Tuesday. The investigators drew a picture of a sprawling conspiracy to help the children of the rich and famous children gain admissions to colleges under false pretenses.

None of the college students was charged in the case, though each had one or both parents charged.

Three others were charged: William Rick Singer, owner of Edge College & Career Network and CEO of Key Worldwide Foundation; Steven Masera, a financial officer at Key; and Mikaela Sanford, who held several positions at Key and is accused of taking high school exams for some students.

William Rick Singer, though he was the mastermind of the scheme, eventually turned state’s evidence against the others — and wore a wire to catch other members of the conspiracy.

Gamal Abdelaziz Charged

Gamal Abdelaziz is described as a former top executive at MGM Resorts and Wynn Resorts. One newspaper claimed Abdeelaziz helped develop a Macau casino and had a good working rapport with Chinese officials.

Wynn Resorts was his latest post in the casino business. When contacted, Wynn Resorts said Gamal Abdelaziz last worked for the company in 2016.

Elisabeth Kimmel Charged

A second Las Vegas resident was charged in the case: media executive Elisabeth Kimmel. Mrs. Kimmel is alleged to have paid $525,000 to gain admissions for her daughter to Georgetown University and her son to USC as athletic recruits.

Casino Exec’s Misconduct Overshadowed by Actresses

In a certain way, many of the executives’ roles in the college entrance scandal was overshadowed by the involvement of actresses Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman. For days after the scandal broke, media focus was on the actresses and their families.

Laughlin’s 19-year old daughter, Olivia Jade Giannulli, was at the center of controversy. Because Olivia Jade claimed she was only at school for the parties and extracurricular events, she became a target for social media commenters. Heather Schwedel of Slate said Guianulli checked “all the right boxes for ridicule.”

Giannulli lost her sales partnerships with Sephora and TRESemme withinb 48 hours of the scandals. Giannulli dropped out of USC for fear of being “viciously bullied” (though an official later said she remained enrolled). Subject to public shaming and ridicule, entertainment publications reported she blamed her parents for “ruining her life”.

By comparison, Gamal Abdel’s coverage was confined to gaming media news sites like BOC.