Two Caught in Alleged College Admission Cheating Scandal Have Ties to Massachusetts - NBC10 Boston

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Two Caught in Alleged College Admission Cheating Scandal Have Ties to Massachusetts

One, John B. Wilson, is a high-powered CEO with a $6 million house in Hyannis Port, and another house in Lynnfield

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    NEWSLETTERS

    2 Men With Ties to New England Charged in Admissions Scam

    Two men with ties to New England are among the many charged in a nationwide college admissions scheme.

    (Published Tuesday, March 12, 2019)

    What to Know

    • John B. Wilson, is a high-powered CEO with a $6 million house in Hyannis Port, and another house in Lynnfield.

    • Gordie Ernst, who is the current head coach of women’s tennis at the University of Rhode Island, was indicted.

    • According to the feds, Ernst raked in more than $2.7 million in bribes to bring on a dozen kids as tennis recruits at Georgetown University.

    Two of the suspects charged Tuesday in the federal college admission scam have homes in Massachusetts.

    One, John B. Wilson, is a high-powered CEO with a $6 million house in Hyannis Port, and another house in Lynnfield. He pleaded not guilty to conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud.

    According to federal prosecutors, Wilson brokered one deal to get his son into the University of Southern California and was working on two other deals to get his daughters into Stanford and Harvard.

    Prosecutors accused Wilson of paying $120,000 in order to hold a spot on the USC 2014 men’s water polo team for his son.

    The feds said the money was a bribe for the water polo coach, Jovan Vavic, to let Wilson’s son on the team. In emails between Wilson and an unnamed cooperating witness they called it getting in the “side door.”

    “Would the other kids know was a bench warmer side door person? ...” Wilson asked, according to court documents. “Obviously his skill level may be below the other freshman.”

    The witness told Wilson his son wouldn’t actually have to play. “...Frankly after the 1st semester he can move on.”

    He played one season on the team then quit.

    USC said Tuesday that Vavic and senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel were fired.

    FBI spokesman Jason White says Vavic was taken into custody Tuesday in Honolulu. It's not clear if he has an attorney to speak for him.

    USC says it is also reviewing its admissions procedures.

    Wilson is a 1983 Harvard business school graduate who runs a financial services firm. He has also held C-level posts Staples, the Gap and Northwest Airlines. According to court documents, once the deal was done, he asked the witness to bill him for consulting “so that I can pay it from the corporate account.”

    The witness agreed to help him write off the expense, and Wilson replied, “Awesome!”

    Four years later, Wilson tried to get his daughters “side door” deals as student-athletes at Stanford or Harvard. The witness allegedly told him he could get the girls into both schools for $1.5 million.

    According to the documents, the witness told Wilson he had to save spots for “whoever’s gonna ante up.”

    In a taped phone call, he told Wilson that the Stanford coach, John Vandemoer, could only give one of his daughters a spot.

    “He has to actually recruit some real sailors so that Stanford doesn’t catch on,” the witness allegedly told Wilson.

    The deal never happened because the FBI was involved at that point.

    Vandemoer has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of racketeering conspiracy.

    No staff at Harvard was involved.

    Wilson pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

    Gordie Ernst, a New England Tennis Hall of Famer who is the current head coach of women’s tennis at the University of Rhode Island, was one of two New England coaches indicted in the sweeping scandal as well. He has pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges.

    His charges are not tied to any activity at URI. The school said he started working there last year, and has not been involved in recruiting.

    But according to the feds, he raked in more than $2.7 million in bribes to bring on a dozen kids as tennis recruits at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

    Former Yale University women’s soccer coach Rudolph Meredith, of Madison, Conn., also was accused of accepting bribes while at Yale to designate applicants as recruits to the soccer team.

    Among the accusations against Meredith was a charge that he accepted money to “revise” the application, personal statement and art portfolio of the daughter of a Los Angeles-based financial advisor into a soccer application.

    He was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and honest services wire fraud as well as honest services wire fraud.


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