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Las Vegas parents charged in college scam appear in Boston court

The two Las Vegas parents charged in the national college admissions scandal appeared in federal court in Boston on Friday.

Former Strip casino executive Gamal Aziz and former San Diego media executive Elisabeth Kimmel each are accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to gain their children admission into elite universities. Both are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

“As I indicated in court, we do not believe this is a strong case,” Aziz’s attorney, Brian Kelley, said in a phone call Friday. “He intends to fight these charges vigorously.”

The Massachusetts attorney previously worked as a federal prosecutor and played a central role in the conviction of James “Whitey” Bulger, the infamous crime boss who in October was killed in prison.

Aziz and Kimmel were arrested earlier this month, shortly after prosecutors in Massachusetts announced the sprawling case, which named about 50 defendants, including Hollywood actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

A Nevada judge previously released Aziz, who is charged as Gamal Abdelaziz, on his own recognizance, but a California judge ordered Kimmel to post a $500,000 bond. Attorneys for Kimmel did not respond to requests for comment.

The Las Vegas parents and five other defendants on Friday elected to waive their preliminary hearings, according to federal court minutes. A Massachusetts judge also granted a request that Aziz be allowed to travel internationally for business.

“Mr. Abdelaziz is an upstanding member of the Las Vegas community, where he has longstanding ties,” according to the written request. “He has never been arrested and has served as a senior executive for large, public U.S. hospitality companies. He has called Las Vegas home since 1995 and currently resides there with his wife in a house he has owned for approximately eight years. All of his children reside in the United States.”

All of those factors “weigh heavily against restricting Mr. Abdelaziz’s international travel,” the document continues.

Aziz is accused of paying a $300,000 bribe for his daughter’s admission to the University of Southern California as a basketball recruit. She began attending the school in the fall but is not on the basketball team.

Nothing in court records indicates that she knew about any arrangements.

Kimmel is accused of paying $275,000 through a family foundation for her daughter’s admission to Georgetown University as a tennis recruit in 2013. The woman also is accused of paying at least $200,000 through the same foundation for her son’s admission into USC as a track recruit.

Her daughter graduated from Georgetown in 2017 but never played tennis. Her son, who began school in the fall, is not on the track team.

Nothing in court records indicates that Kimmel’s son or daughter knew about any arrangements.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelcrosby on Twitter.

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