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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, September 1, 2020

University Athletic Officials Charged in Superseding Indictment in College Admissions Case

BOSTON – A federal grand jury in the District of Massachusetts returned a second superseding indictment today bringing additional charges against two university athletic officials in the college admissions case.  

The second superseding indictment charges Gordon Ernst, the former Georgetown University tennis coach, with three counts of federal programs bribery and three counts of filing false tax returns and charges Jovan Vavic, former water polo coach at the University of Southern California, with conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery. An arraignment date has not yet been scheduled.

The indictment alleges that in addition to accepting bribes from William “Rick” Singer, Ernst also solicited and received bribes from three other prospective Georgetown applicants. Ernst then failed to report a significant portion of those bribe payments on his federal income tax returns. The second superseding indictment also alleges that Vavic conspired to commit federal programs bribery by soliciting and accepting bribes to facilitate the admission of students to the University of Southern California. The new charges are in addition to those brought in an earlier indictment

Singer previously pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government’s investigation. 

Of the 12 coaches, administrators and employees charged in the initial indictment in March 2019, eight have pleaded guilty or agreed to do so. Defendants Gordon Ernst, Donna Heinel, Jovan Vavic and William Ferguson have pleaded not guilty.

Case information, including the status of each defendant, charging documents and plea agreements are available here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/investigations-college-admissions-and-testing-bribery-scheme.

 The charge of federal programs bribery provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of filing a false tax return provides for a sentence of up to three years in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $100,000. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston; and Mark Deckett, Resident Agent in Charge of the Department of Education, Office of Inspector General made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright, Kristen A. Kearney, Stephen E. Frank and Karin M. Bell of Lelling’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the court documents are allegations and the remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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Updated September 1, 2020