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Former Staples exec sentenced in Varsity Blues scheme, marking end of years-long case

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(BOSTON) — A former Staples executive was sentenced on Friday for his role in the college admissions cheating scheme known as Varsity Blues, marking the end of a years-long case that has resulted in dozens of convictions.

John Wilson, 64, of Lynnfield, Massachusetts, was sentenced in federal court in Boston to one year of probation — with the first six months to be served in home detention — and 250 hours of community service, federal prosecutors said. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $75,000 and restitution in the amount of $88,546.

Wilson, a private equity investor, was found guilty in 2021 in the first trial stemming from the scheme. He was initially sentenced last year to 15 months in prison but appealed and most of the charges he was convicted of were subsequently dropped.

He was resentenced on Friday on the charge of filing a false tax return. Prosecutors said he falsely claimed payments he made to secure his son’s admission to the University of Southern California were deductible as a business expense and a charitable contribution.

According to prosecutors, Wilson agreed to pay scheme mastermind William “Rick” Singer $220,000 in 2013 to secure his son’s admission as a “purported water polo recruit.” Wilson’s attorneys argued the payment was a legitimate donation and that his case was “fundamentally different” from others in the Varsity Blues scandal. They also disputed prosecutors’ claims that Wilson’s son was an “alleged athlete,” calling it “categorically false,” while noting that his son played on USC’s water polo team during his freshman year.

“It was a terrible injustice to tarnish the Wilson family with the Varsity Blues accusations, and it is finally over,” Wilson’s attorney, Michael Kendall of White & Case LLP, said in a statement on Friday. “John Wilson did not commit fraud, he did not bribe any universities, and he did not partake in a grand conspiracy. His children were highly successful students who were qualified on their own merits.”

The sentencing decision “shows the tax count was more of a technical charge than anything else,” the statement continued.

Wilson expressed relief at the sentencing.

“After almost five years of being falsely accused and then wrongly convicted, my family and I are relieved to see our nightmare end,” Wilson said in a statement. “I have spent years defending my innocence and the reputations of my children. Today, it’s clear to all that I was telling the truth, I did not violate any laws or school policies.”

The sentencing marks the end of a years-long case brought by federal prosecutors in Boston that resulted in 51 convictions.

Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among those who served prison time. They have since been released.

Singer was sentenced to 42 months in prison by a federal judge in January after pleading guilty.

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