Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Former Georgetown University tennis coach faces additional charges in college admissions scam

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Gordon Ernst, a former Georgetown University tennis coach who owns property in Falmouth, faces new charges in the college admissions case.

Ernst was charged Tuesday with three counts of federal programs bribery, three counts of filing false tax returns, aiding and abetting wire and mail fraud, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud conspiracy, federal programs bribery conspiracy and other charges.

Those charges are in addition to Ernst’s previous indictment on racketeering, federal programs bribery and money laundering charges.

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He was first charged in March 2019 along with dozens of university officials and high-profile parents tied to the college admissions scandal. The federal investigation known as “Operation Varsity Blues” accused wealthy parents of using bribes to get their children into selective universities across the U.S. by pretending to be athletic prodigies.

A Georgetown tennis coach for 12 years, Ernst lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland. He also owns Unit 25 at 25 Gang Way in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Records show it is worth about $530,000.

Jovan Vavic, former water polo coach at the University of Southern California, was also named in the superseding indictment Tuesday. He was charged with conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery.

Rick Singer, the mastermind behind the college admissions scheme, paid Ernst more than $2.7 million in so-called “consulting” fees between 2007 and 2018, according to court documents. Authorities say the fees were actually bribes Ernst accepted to select at least a dozen applicants as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team to help them get into the university.

Some of them did not play tennis competitively. At least two of those clients falsely claimed on their applications they had performed well in tennis, according to a previous indictment. One of the applicants claimed to have ranked “at the top” of her “age bracket in Japan.” That applicant, who applied November 2008, received a “likely letter” from the university a month later, which means she had a “greater than 95% chance” of admission.

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He was the head coach for the men’s and women’s tennis programs for Georgetown for 12 years, leaving in 2018.

The newest indictment includes allegations involving more applicants. Ernst allegedly took a bribe of roughly $200,000 in 2014 from the father of an applicant who wanted to be recruited for the tennis team even though she wasn’t a highly ranked tennis player and would not have been sought out by Georgetown.

Authorities say Ernst also agreed to pay an unnamed tennis recruiter $10,000 to act as a middle man in the bribery deal with the applicant’s father. The applicant’s father also agreed to pay the recruiter, according to the indictment.

This applicant, only identified as Georgetown Applicant 4, submitted her application in mid-October 2014. She was admitted in May 2015.

After the applicant received her admission letter, her father withdrew $200,000 from a bank in Florida and flew to Massachusetts, according to Tuesday’s indictment. He allegedly met with the tennis recruiter, giving him $180,000 in cash for Ernst and $20,000 in cash for himself. That was a portion of the money the father agreed to pay them, the indictment states.

The tennis recruiter drove to Falmouth and handed $170,000 to Ernst’s wife and keeping the remaining $10,000, per their agreement.

The indictment alleges Ernst accepted bribes for two other applicants, who were admitted in 2017 and 2018 as tennis recruits. At least one of those applicants were clients of singers.

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An arraignment date has not been scheduled for Ernst or Vavic.

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