Hot Pocket heiress, other parents face judge in Operation Varsity Blues case

Some of the wealthy parents swept up in the Operation Varsity Blues case appeared before a federal judge in Boston Friday, though it didn’t really get much notice in the press. Fifteen parents in the group of fifty people charged in the scandalous case did not enter pleas but were told by court officials the charges and maximum sentences while the judge told the parents their rights. The court appearances were mostly a formality. Then he dealt with special considerations requested by the parents.


What special considerations would these parents have the nerve to ask of the judge? Well, there are vacations and business trips to consider. It’s tough living large and wheeling and dealing around the globe if passports are confiscated by the feds, you know. You may remember that the passports of two of the most famous personalities involved, Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin (who are not scheduled to appear in the Boston court until later this week) were relinquished upon their arrests, though technically Loughlin was not yet fired from her work with the Hallmark Channel and Netflix.

The former head of Wynn Resorts Development asked permission to travel to Mexico for business purposes His daughter was one of the phony athletes admitted to USC.

Gamal Abdelaziz, the former head of Wynn Resorts Development, was also released on conditions, including turning in his passport after every business trip. He allegedly paid $300,000 to get his daughter into USC. The money went toward creating a fake athletic profile to secure her admission as a basketball recruit.

Abdelaziz didn’t make a statement in court, but defense lawyer Brian Kelly said his client intends to fight the charges.

Kelly requested permission for Abdelaziz to travel to Mexico on business next month. He says “this is a one-witness case” that relies on a “deeply compromised” witness.

The judge granted the request on the condition that Abdelaziz relinquishes his passport again upon his return.


One parent requesting permission to travel to Mexico for vacation wasn’t so lucky. His request for travel to Mexico for a family vacation was denied. He was told by the court that a vacation could be taken at his other properties within the U.S. Ouch. Hey buddy, take the family to Montana or northern California, not Mexico.

William McGlashan, who co-founded an investment fund with U2′s Bono in 2017, had his request to take a family vacation to Mexico denied after prosecutors noted his family had a number of domestic vacation options, including properties they own in Montana and northern California.

McGlashan, 55, is accused of paying bribes to get his son into USC as a recruit for the college’s storied football team, even though his son’s high school didn’t have a team.

Other parents who appeared in federal court Friday include the heiress to the Hot Pocket fortune, a favorite snack among college kids. We hadn’t really seen an extended list of parents before Friday.

Michelle Janavs, heiress to the Hot Pockets fortune is now being named as another suspect in the largest college admission fraud.

Janavs, a former executive at Chef America is accused of paying $100,000 to “fix” her daughter’s college admissions exam in order to get her into USC.

Like Loughlin who used a sporting team to get her kids into the prestigious California school, Janavs is accused of getting her daughter into the school as a volleyball recruit.

It’s being reported that she even paid thousands to alter her youngest daughters ACT scores however, it was unclear what school she was going to used the fixed scored for.


The other parents are a mixed bag of business executives and even a bourbon distillery owner in Kentucky.

Other defendants appearing Friday were William McGlashan, a former executive for the private equity firm TPG; prominent Miami developer Robert Zangrillo; California businessman Stephen Semprevivo; former media executive Elisabeth Kimmel; Arizona resort developer Robert Flaxman; California warehouse company entrepreneur Joey Chen; Gregory Abbott, the founder and chairman of International Dispensing Corp. and his wife, Marcia Abbott; entrepreneur and investor Todd Blake and his wife Diane Blake, an executive at a retail merchandising firm; Marjorie Klapper, the co-owner of a jewelry business; and Marci Palatella, who founded bourbon maker Preservation Distillery in Kentucky.

The day before, Thursday, Yale’s former women’s soccer coach pleaded guilty to taking bribes for recruiting students as athletes. Rudy Meredith is one of three who have pleaded guilty so far. William “Rick” Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering, conspiracy plus other charges on March 12. He’s cooperating with prosecutors now.

Forbes has a really good article online that presents the details of the long process that is before these parents moving forward. The author lays out the repercussions of convictions that go further than prison sentences. International travel and professional business licenses will be affected, too.


There are repercussions for these defendants that go far beyond just a prison term. The Hallmark Channel has delayed airing episodes of “When Calls The Heart” featuring Lorie Loughlin and are considering other options, likely cancellation. It was reported that Loughlin was filming “A Fuller House” in Canada when the criminal complaint was filed. She will find out that even if the project in Canada moves forward, she will have a difficult time getting back into Canada, which has some of the most strict laws about entry into the country for those with felony convictions. There are similar complications that come with high profile business people who are involved in this scandal. Professionals who run public companies have securities licenses and certifications, may all find themselves disqualified from their positions, even if there is no prison time involved. For those who are considering guilty pleas versus going to trial, the collateral consequences will be more of a consideration than the possible prison term.

There is also the possibility that the defendants (the parents) will make deals during this time, too. Harsher charges are possible going forward to the grand jury stage of the process and that would bring stiffer sentences. (Forbes)

Right now, US Attorney Lelling is signaling that the door is open for defendants to make deals before the information goes to a grand jury and formal indictments are issued. The charges are primarily listed as mail fraud and honest services fraud, but money laundering enhancements (running some payments through a bogus non-profit), obstruction (deleting of emails) and IRS issues could give prosecutors the upper hand during these early talks.


So much personal destruction, all over college admissions. It’s difficult to see how any of the people affected in this corruption, whether it’s the parents or the children recover in the near future. This story will be continuing for quite some time.

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David Strom 7:00 AM | May 18, 2024