A former Georgetown University tennis coach accused of accepting more than $ 2 million in bribes to bring children to school will plead guilty to horrific college admissions scandal
Gordon Ernst’s decision to plead guilty comes as the first lawsuit in the massive case that has plagued wealthy parents and athletic coaches across the country in federal court in Boston.
Ernst, who was scheduled to go to court in November, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, including conspiracy to bribe federal programs, according to court records. His lawyer declined to comment Wednesday.
Prosecutors have agreed to recommend a sentence of no more than four years in prison, according to the plea. Ernst promised to ask no less than a year behind bars.
Ernst, who was the head men and women tennis coach in Georgetown, was arrested in March 2019 along with more than four dozen others in the so-called “Operation Varsity Blues” case that uncovered a scheme to get undocumented kids and elite universities rigged with test scores or incorrect sports registration information.
Ernst was accused of accepting bribes from admissions consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer, in exchange for designating several applicants as Georgetown tennis recruits.
He was later hired by the University of Rhode Island, which claims it was not told about violations of admissions rules. He resigned from that school shortly after his arrest.
Ernst had been fighting the charges for more than two years and was put on trial alongside former senior associate athletic director of the University of Southern California, Donna Heinel, and two other coaches: ex-USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic and former Wake Forest University Women’s Volleyball Coach William Ferguson.
A total of 57 people were charged in the case and nearly four dozen have already pleaded guilty.
The longest sentence awarded so far was nine months to former Pacific Investment Management Co. CEO Douglas Hodge, who paid bribes totaling $ 850,000 to recruit four of his children to the USC and Georgetown as athletic recruits. to get.
Two parents – former casino executive Gamal Abdelaziz and former Staples and Gap Inc. Executive John Wilson – is on trial for charges that she paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to get her children into the USC by misrepresenting her as a sports recruit. Wilson is also accused of raising more than $ 1 million to buy his twin daughters at Harvard and Stanford.
The trial is expected to take several weeks. Defense attorneys told the jurors during their opening statements Monday that the singer’s parents were depressed and led them to believe their payments were legitimate donations.
The singer, who began cooperating with investigators in 2018 and secretly recorded his phone conversations with parents, was expected to be a key witness for the government. But prosecutors told the jurors on Monday that they would not call him to the stand.