Final Parent in College-Admissions Cheating Case Found Not Guilty
Acquittal is a blow to prosecutors, who scored guilty pleas and verdicts for nearly all other Varsity Blues defendants
A federal jury found a Florida investor not guilty of bribing a Georgetown University tennis coach to get his daughter admitted to the prestigious school, delivering prosecutors a rare defeat in the sprawling Varsity Blues college-admissions cheating case.
Amin Khoury was found not guilty Thursday of two counts: bribery, and fraud and bribery conspiracy. He was accused of paying former Georgetown coach Gordon Ernst nearly $200,000 in cash in exchange for having his daughter flagged as a recruited athlete, all but ensuring her admission to the university.
Mr. Ernst has admitted to taking bribes in exchange for identifying applicants as recruits, even when they weren’t strong tennis players.
Mr. Khoury was charged in September 2020, his case developing as federal investigators pursued a complex scheme in which a college counselor helped facilitate bribes to coaches in exchange for access to coveted admission slots. The counselor, William “Rick” Singer, has pleaded guilty to four felony charges and is awaiting sentencing.
Mr. Khoury wasn’t a client of Mr. Singer’s. Rather, prosecutors said, he worked with a different middleman—a tennis recruiter—in a deal to pay Mr. Ernst around $200,000 to have his daughter designated as a recruit. The teen did play tennis, though prosecutors said her skills were below the level typical of Georgetown recruits.
The trial in U.S. District Court in Boston lasted just over a week, and the jury returned the not-guilty verdict after a day and a half of deliberation.
Mr. Khoury’s attorney, Howard Srebnick, called the verdict “total vindication for both father and daughter.” Including Mr. Khoury, 40 parents have been charged.
Most of the 57 people charged as part of the Operation Varsity Blues investigation, including parents as well as coaches and employees of Mr. Singer, pleaded guilty. Their punishments so far have ranged from probation to nine months in prison. Three who went to trial—two parents and one coach—were found guilty.
U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said that she was disappointed by the verdict but that this investigation and other Varsity Blues prosecutions “have resulted in enormous and systemic changes in the college-admissions process.”
She said: “These cases writ large have exposed the disturbing, improper, and inequitable role that wealth and privilege can play in distorting a system that is supposed to be merit based.”
Write to Melissa Korn at email@example.com
Appeared in the June 17, 2022, print edition as ‘Federal Jury Acquits Defendant in College-Admissions Case’.