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USC freezes account of Lynnfield student caught in admission scandal

LYNNFIELD — The son of a Lynnfield dad who was implicated in the admission scandal is facing troubles of his own at the University of Southern California.

Johnny Wilson, 23, whose father, John B. Wilson, has been charged in a nationwide bribery conspiracy of rich parents to secure their children’s admission into the nation’s most elite schools, is under review by the school.

USC has frozen the accounts of students, including that of Johnny Wilson, who may be associated with the alleged scheme. It will prevent them from registering for classes or acquiring transcripts while their cases are under review, according to a statement from USC’s press office.

The students have been notified that their status is under review, the school said. Following the examination, the school pledged to take the proper action related to their status, up to revoking admission or expulsion.

USC confirmed the 6-foot Johnny Wilson is enrolled in the school’s Bachelor of Arts/Economics degree program.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston alleged John B. Wilson, a 59-year-old investor, allegedly paid water polo coach Jovan Vavic $220,000 to get his son into USC in 2014 under the guise of being recruited as an athlete.

The coach has since been fired and indicted.

Prosecutors say John B. Wilson paid $1 million in December to secure spots for his twin daughters at Stanford and Harvard universities after a witness began cooperating with federal authorities.

John B. Wilson was arrested in Texas and will be arraigned in U.S. District Court in Boston on Friday, March 29.

He has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. The charge of racketeering conspiracy provides a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a fine of not more than $500,000 and three years probation.

John B. Wilson owns a $2.4 million Colonial on Ashley Court with his wife, Leslie, and a seven-bedroom vacation home they bought in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod in 2000 for $6 million, according to county records.

The national scandal threatens to take down celebrities including Felicity Huffman, star of “Desperate Housewives,” and Lori Loughlin of “Full House,” who were also indicted. In addition, athletic coaches from Yale, Stanford, USC, Wake Forest and Georgetown, face prosecution, as well as parents and exam administrators.

A cooperating prosecution witness told law enforcement agents he began working with John B. Wilson in 2012, who agreed to pay the bribes.

In 2013, John B. Wilson emailed the witness to “confirm for which schools is side door option really viable,” according to the complaint.

The witness explained “Jovan Vavic is giving me one boys slot and as of yet no one has stepped up to commit …”

Also that year, John B. Wilson emailed the witness and asked, “Would the other kids know my son was a bench warmer … Obviously his skill level may be below the other freshmen. In your view will he be so weak as to be a clear misfit at practice, etc.?”

The father was told his son would not be expected to play water polo for USC beyond the first semester of his freshman year, the transcript said.

One day after Johnny Wilson was admitted to USC as water polo recruit in 2014, under the subject line “USC fees,” his father wrote: “Thanks again for making this happen! Pls give me the invoice. What are the options for the payment? Can we make it for consulting or whatever … so I can pay it from the corporate account?”

Prosecutors say the bribes were orchestrated by William “Rick” Singer, a 58-year-old California admissions consultant. He is scheduled to plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy. Court documents reveal his company was paid $25 million from 2011 through last month to facilitate the bribes.

John B. Wilson has an extensive résumé, according to Bloomberg, the business news outlet. He was founder of Hyannis Port Capital Inc. and serves as its president. He served as the chief operating officer of Gap Inc., and was chief financial officer for Staples Inc. Before that, he was an executive at Northwest Airlines Inc., and a partner of Bain & Co.

Until last week, he had been the lead independent trustee of 112 portfolios in the Franklin Templeton Funds. But he was removed after his indictment, the company confirmed.

Johnny Wilson could not be reached for comment and John B. Wilson did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Interim USC President Wanda Austin said the recent revelations run counter to the school’s values, which prioritize admissions based on merit and opportunity for qualified candidates.

“USC has opened an investigation into the matter while remaining in full cooperation with the U.S. Justice Department,” she said in an email to the school community. “Moving forward, we will take all necessary steps to safeguard the integrity of our admissions process and to ensure we conduct ourselves with integrity and ethics consistent with our values.”

 

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