2021 | Courts

Former Chevy Chase man to plead guilty to bribery in college admissions scandal at Georgetown

He allegedly received $2.7M, misrepresented applicants as tennis recruits

share this

A former Georgetown University tennis coach from Chevy Chase will plead guilty in connection with a national college admissions scandal, authorities said Wednesday.

Gordon Ernst, 54, formerly of Chevy Chase and now of Falmouth, Mass., is accused of taking $2.7 million in bribes to help students get admitted by pretending they were tennis recruits.

The scandal, known as “Operation Varsity Blues,” involves dozens of parents across the country who allegedly paid bribes to college coaches and administrators to ensure their children were admitted to elite universities.

Ernst will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, three counts of federal programs bribery and one count of filing a false tax return, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced on Wednesday.

Ernst is accused of soliciting and receiving payments from the alleged mastermind of the scandal, William “Rick” Singer, and Georgetown applicants to help admit them to the university as athletes, according to a press release. Ernst did not report “a significant portion” of the bribes on his federal income tax returns.

Tracy Miner, a Boston attorney who represents Ernst, declined to comment to Bethesda Beat on Wednesday.

Ernst has not coached at Georgetown since December 2017, which followed an “internal investigation that found he had violated university rules concerning admission,” the university has said previously.

Following his employment at Georgetown, he was hired by the University of Rhode Island to coach the women’s tennis team, but was later placed on administrative leave when he was indicted in the spring of 2019. Ernst later resigned from the university.

Ernst is accused of accepting more than $2.7 million in bribes from Singer between 2012 and 2018, Bethesda Beat reported in 2019. He allegedly designated 12 applicants as recruits for the tennis team to help get them into Georgetown.

In May 2019, Ernst put his Chevy Chase home on the market for sale. Property records indicate that it was sold the following month.

A plea hearing hasn’t been scheduled yet in the case.

A charge of federal programs bribery carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison. The conspiracy charge carries up to five years in prison and the charge of filing a false tax return carries up to three years in prison, according to the press release. Each charge also has a fine associated with it.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com