Former Georgetown tennis coach agrees to plead guilty in admissions scandal

A former Georgetown University male and female tennis coach accused of soliciting and accepting bribes to help students enter college was the last person to agree to plead guilty on Wednesday in an admissions investigation that touched elite schools across the country, according to the US lawyer. office for the District of Massachusetts.

Coach Gordon Ernst, 54, of Chevy Chase, Md., And Falmouth, Mass., Was due on trial in November alongside coaches from other universities.

The deal also came as the first week of testimony unfolded in the trial of two wealthy fathers accused of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to bring their children into the University of Southern California with false qualifications. sports.

Mr Ernst has been accused of accepting bribes to appoint at least 12 students as recruits to the Georgetown tennis team, some of whom did not play tennis competitively, between 2012 and 2018 Federal prosecutors say he was part of an operation orchestrated by William Singer, known as Rick, who introduced himself as a college admissions “janitor” counselor to the wealthy.

Mr Ernst has agreed to plead guilty to charges including conspiring to commit bribery under federal programs and filing false income tax returns, court documents show. A plea hearing has not yet been scheduled, federal prosecutors said.

Mr Ernst agreed to a sentence of at least one year and up to four years in prison, two years of supervised release and the forfeiture of $ 3.4 million of the proceeds of the scheme, according to the prosecution. Mr Ernst’s attorney, Tracy Miner, said on Wednesday that the current trial in Boston federal court had nothing to do with his client’s decision, but declined to comment beyond that. .

In a statement, Georgetown University said it was “deeply disappointed” to learn of Mr. Ernst’s actions “which constitute an unprecedented breach of trust.”

It’s an open secret that athletes worthy of recruitment have a higher than average chance of entering many elite universities, perhaps even more than legacy admissions and the children of major donors. Mr Singer told parents he created a “side door” to admissions through sports recruiting.

Mr Ernst left Georgetown after an internal investigation in 2017 revealed “irregularities” in the athletic credentials of two students who were recruited to play tennis; neither of the two students were admitted, according to the university.

Mr Ernst was arrested in March 2019 along with more than four dozen other coaches, parents, test center officials and recognized admissions program mastermind Mr Singer, who began cooperating with the government in 2018 and pleaded guilty but has not yet been convicted.

After the arrests, Georgetown said it planned to fire two students linked to the scandal.

Since then, 57 people have been charged in the case, and around four dozen have pleaded guilty, including 33 parents.

The two parents currently on trial, Gamal Abdelaziz, a former casino executive, and John Wilson, a former Gap executive, say they are innocent and were duped by Mr Singer into believing they were making legitimate donations to the University of Southern California in to facilitate the admission of their children as recruited athletes.

Mr. Wilson’s son was admitted as a water polo player and Mr. Abdelaziz’s daughter was admitted as a basketball player. Both played the sports and Mr Wilson’s son was, according to the defense, a serious water polo player, but prosecutors questioned their credentials for playing at the college level. Mr Wilson is also accused of paying $ 1.5 million, in another ploy orchestrated by Mr Singer, to get his daughters into Harvard and Stanford by falsely portraying them as sailors.

Other parents in the case are accused of agreeing to have their children diagnosed with learning disabilities so that they can have 100% more time to take the SAT or ACT test and can take the test in test centers controlled by Mr. Singer. Mr Singer told parents he could guarantee them any SAT score they wanted, according to a recording made while Mr Singer cooperated with the government. He said their children would never find out about the fraud and would just think they had a lucky day.

Sheelagh McNeill contributed to the research.

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