A former Georgetown University tennis coach accused of taking $2.7 million in bribes as part of a massive college admissions scheme has made his initial court appearance.
A federal magistrate in Maryland agreed Tuesday to free 52-year-old Gordon Ernst on $200,000 bond after his arrest on a racketeering conspiracy charge.
He's among 50 people charged in the scheme involving wealthy parents and elite university coaches. Court documents allege Ernst was paid more than $2.7 million and designated at least 12 applicants as recruits to facilitate their admission. One family paid him $400,000, according to charging documents.
Prosecutors say Ernst would tell the university's admissions office he offered the students a spot on his team, despite knowing the students weren't competitive athletes.
Georgetown spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak says Ernst hasn't coached there since December 2017 after an investigation found he violated university admissions rules.
"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," Dubyak said in a statement. "Georgetown cooperated fully with the government’s investigation. We are reviewing the details of the indictment and will take appropriate action."
The University of Rhode Island says Ernst, who was hired as head women's tennis coach in August, was placed on administrative leave.
"Ernst was hired by URI in August 2018 as head coach. He has not been involved in the recruitment of any current players nor in the signing of any new recruits," URI said in a statement.
Below is a statement university administrators sent to the Georgetown University community:
Earlier today, we were deeply troubled 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. Mr. Ernst was charged alongside more than 40 other individuals, including coaches from Stanford, UCLA, the University of San Diego, USC, University of Texas, Wake Forest and Yale. The indictments allege a nationwide conspiracy whereby a for-profit college preparation company, The Key Worldwide, helped facilitate cheating on college entrance exams and bribed coaches to propose students as athletic recruits. The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has identified Georgetown as a victim in the criminal case. You can read more about the case here.
Mr. Ernst has not coached our tennis team since December 2017, when he was placed on leave after the Office of Undergraduate Admissions identified irregularities in his recruitment practices and the University initiated an internal investigation. The investigation found that Mr. Ernst had violated University rules concerning admissions, and he separated from the University in 2018. The University was not aware of any alleged criminal activity or acceptance of bribes by Mr. Ernst until it was later contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, with whom we fully cooperated in its investigation. Mr. Ernst’s alleged actions are shocking, highly antithetical to our values, and violate numerous University policies and ethical standards.
Now that the government’s investigation has detailed the extent of the alleged fraud, we are reviewing the details of the indictment and will be taking appropriate action. We have no indication that any other Georgetown employees were involved. While Georgetown has always maintained a policy to ensure that recruited athletes have the academic credentials to be successful at the University, we established a new policy in 2018 to strengthen the recruitment and admissions process for potential student athletes. In addition, our Department of Athletics and Office of Undergraduate Admissions now perform audits to determine whether any recruited student-athletes are not on the roster of the sport for which they were recruited.
All employees of Georgetown University are responsible for maintaining the highest ethical standards and for complying with relevant laws, regulations and policies at all times. We encourage all members of our community to report any suspicious activity to our Office of Compliance and Ethics through our Compliance Helpline.