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Lynnfield dad faces new charges in Varsity Blues college scandal

BOSTON — A Lynnfield father who has already pleaded not guilty to bribing a coach to secure a spot for his son at the University of Southern California (USC) was indicted Tuesday on new charges.

Prosecutors allege John Wilson, who owns a $2.4 million Colonial on Ashley Court, paid $1 million in bribes to get his twin daughters into Harvard University and Stanford universities. 

The 59-year-old investor was not alone. 

“Full House” actress Lori Loughlin, her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, and eight other parents also face new federal charges as prosecutors pressure them to confess in what’s been called the “Varsity Blues” college admissions bribery scheme.

Prosecutors alleged that Wilson asked William Singer, who managed Key Worldwide Foundation, the faux California charity he managed at the center of the college-admissions scandal, for help to get his children into college. 

He and Wilson talked about so-called “side door” opportunities for his daughters, prosecutors said. Singer explained that “by the side door” he may be able to tell the sailing coach: “Hey, this family’s willing to make the contributions,” according to email transcripts in court documents. “She could be on your team. She is a sailor. She may not be up to the level you are, but… you know, you’re gonna get a benefit, and the family’s gonna get benefit.”

Last year, Singer allegedly called Wilson to say his daughters “don’t have to play. They just— that’s the path I’m gonna get ’em in on.” Wilson responded “Gotcha,” according to court documents.

Over the next few months, Wilson wired two checks for $500,000 each to the Key Worldwide Foundation.

Of the 52 parents and college staff who were indicted last spring, including Wilson, 19 have pleaded guilty.

The are accused of paying to get their children admitted to elite schools. All of the defendants have previously pleaded not guilty to other charges in the scheme.

Of of 10 parents sentenced so far, nine have been given prison time, ranging from 14 days to five months. Another 15 parents are fighting charges tied to the scheme. Their trials are expected to begin next year.

Peter Elikann, former chairman of the Massachusetts Bar Association Criminal Justice Division, said Wilson and the others are paying the price for pleading not guilty. 

“Federal prosecutors warned that if they didn’t lie down and plead guilty quickly, they might face new charges,” he said. “It’s a common tactic to pressure defendants into pleading guilty, telling them if they don’t, they could be charged with more onerous offenses.” 

While defendants have a right to a trial and their day in court, they do face more serious punishment by demonstrating their right to face a jury, he said. 

“If you’re guilty and certain you won’t win the case, it’s not unusual to plead guilty to get the benefit of a lesser sentence,” he said.

Former “Desperate Housewives” TV actress Felicity Huffman, 56, pleaded guilty for paying a $15,000 bribe to boost one of her daughter’s college-admissions test scores. She began serving a 14-day sentence last week.

Last spring, prosecutors alleged Wilson paid the confessed mastermind of the scheme, William “Rick” Singer, $220,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California and onto the school’s water polo team in 2014, based, in part, on athletic skills he lacked, according to court documents.

With the new charges Wilson faces up to 40 years in jail and a $500,000 fine. His next court date is scheduled for Jan. 19.

Wilson’s lawyer, Michael Kendall, managing partner of White & Case LLP’s Boston office, declined to comment.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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