‘Varsity Blues’ Dad Acquitted In Lone Blemish For Prosecutors

By Brian Dowling     

Law360, Boston (June 16, 2022, 2:45 PM EDT) — A Boston federal jury on Wednesday acquitted a Massachusetts businessman on charges he bribed his daughter’s way into Georgetown University through illicit payments to the elite school’s tennis coach, upending the government’s clean record of convictions in the “Varsity Blues” investigation.

Amin Khoury was found not guilty of participating in a mail fraud conspiracy and bribery scheme for paying $180,000 to former Georgetown coach Gordon Ernst through a middleman, who also received $20,000. Prosecutors said that in exchange, Ernst marked Khoury’s daughter, Katherine Khoury, as a recruit to the elite Division I school.

Khoury embraced his legal team after the jury and judge left the room.

The weeklong trial featured evidence that Khoury attended a Memorial Day weekend reunion at Brown University, resulting in an agreement that he would pay Ernst for the recruiting slot.

The alleged middleman in the scheme, Tim Donovan, testified that he met up on Cape Cod with Khoury, who gave him a paper bag filled with $180,000 in crisp bills.

Khoury’s defense attorney, Roy Black of Black Srebnick PA, hammered Donovan, who testified under an immunity deal with prosecutors, suggesting he was only saying what the government wanted him to say in order to dodge liability for allegedly not paying taxes on cash fees he took for helping high school tennis players get recruited into colleges.

“It’s made up by Tim Donovan as part of his scheme to get immunity,” Black said during closing arguments. “Katherine Khoury got into school on her own with the help of her father’s best friend from Brown as it was disclosed to the school.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristen Kearney, at closing, leaned into the image — offered by Donovan — of the paper shopping bag filled with $180,000 in cash that Khoury allegedly slid across a table to him.

“Brown paper shopping bag of cash,” she told the jury Tuesday. “It’s not some imaginary evidence the defense is asking you to conjure. It’s the actual evidence in front of you. This case is not complicated. The defense had thrown a lot at you to distract you from the simple fact they cannot dispute.”

Khoury’s daughter testified in her father’s defense, describing her road from a private boarding school in Concord, Massachusetts, to becoming a Georgetown tennis recruit — and confirming that she never knew of any of her father’s alleged payments to Ernst.

Black said Katherine never played tennis because her parents’ divorce soured her on the sport, which she played since a child with her father. He also said the cash given to Ernst was a gift for the coach having intervened to save his daughter’s admission after her high school told the university that she was caught drinking a glass of wine at a restaurant.

The government did not call Ernst to testify in the case. The fired coach is awaiting sentencing for his work taking bribes from “Varsity Blues” ringleader William “Rick” Singer to designate other kids as fake recruits.

While the charges against Khoury were initially included in a government list compiling the sprawling “Varsity Blues” prosecution, the U.S. Attorney’s office recently scrubbed Khoury from the list and has argued that Khoury is no longer part of the larger college admissions and test cheating scheme.

The government is represented by Kristen A. Kearney and Christopher J. Markham of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.

Khoury is represented by Mathilda McGee-Tubb, R. Robert Popeo and Eoin P. Beirne of Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC and Roy Black, Howard M. Srebnick, Jackie Perczek and Maria Neyra of Black Srebnick PA.

The case is USA v. Amin Khoury, case number 1:20-cr-10177, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.