A former Georgetown University head tennis coach from Chevy Chase has been accused of racketeering in a sweeping federal case that claims dozens of parents paid bribes to college coaches and administrators to get their children into elite schools across the country.
In announcing the charges Tuesday, federal prosecutors in Boston said the “nationwide conspiracy” included bribes to administrators of college entrance tests to allow stand-ins to take the exams and illegal payments to coaches to declare applicants as sports recruits, regardless of their athletic abilities.
Gordon Ernst, of Chevy Chase, the former tennis coach at Georgetown, was one of 12 people indicted on racketeering charges, federal prosecutors said. Others facing racketeering charges were coaches and athletic directors at large universities in California and North Carolina.
In a statement, Georgetown said “Ernst has not coached our tennis team since December 2017, following an internal investigation that found he had violated university rules concerning admission.”
Ernst, 52, who was hired in August by the University of Rhode Island to coach the women’s tennis team, has been placed on administrative leave following the indictment, the university said in a statement. The university added that Ernst wasn’t involved in the recruitment or signing of players.
Ernst also has a residence in Falmouth, Massachusetts. He could not be located for comment.
The federal indictment alleges that between 2012 and 2018, William Singer, 58, of Newport Beach, California, paid Ernst bribes of more than $2.7 million. Ernst designated at least 12 applicants as recruits for the tennis team, helping them get into Georgetown.
Singer owned and operated Edge College & Career Network LLC, and allegedly conspired with dozens of parents and coaches to fraudulently secure admissions into several universities, including Georgetown, the prosecutor’s office announced.
One instance in August 2015 involved Singer drafting an email on an unnamed applicant’s behalf regarding tennis abilities, which Ernst then sent to a Georgetown admissions officer, even though the applicant did not play competitive tennis, according to the allegations.
Ernst then wrote the same admissions officer to “confirm my usage of three spots” he was allocated for admissions as part of the tennis recruitment process, all of which went to children of Singer’s clients, including the unnamed applicant, none of whom played competitive tennis. The parents of the applicant then sent $400,000 to one of Singer’s charitable accounts, according to the charging documents.
“Georgetown University is deeply disappointed to learn that former Tennis Coach Gordon Ernst is alleged to have committed criminal acts against the University that constitute an unprecedented breach of trust,” Georgetown spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said in a statement. The university said it is cooperating with authorities.
A total of 33 parents and 13 coaches and associates of Singer’s businesses were charged in the case, described as one of the largest of its kind in recent history.