12 people accused of taking bribes and fraudulently granting students admission into top schools have pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges.
The accused, including former athletic coaches, appeared in a federal court in Boston earlier this week, two weeks after the U.S. Justice Department charged 50 people in one of the biggest college admissions scandal in the nation’s history. Famous Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman, Lori Laughlin, and prominent Silicon Valley investor Bill McGlashan were also charged by the court.
On Monday, 12 defendants, including Gordon Ernst, a former Georgetown men’s and women’s tennis coach, and Donna Heinel, former senior associate athletic director at USC, appeared before the court to answer to the racketeering charges. All agreed that they understood the charges and pleaded not guilty.
Charges levied against those involved include bribing SAT and ACT exam administrators to allow a test taker in place of students or to correct the students’ answers after they had taken the exam, bribing university athletic coaches and administrators, and using a charitable organization to conceal the nature and source of the bribes, according to the Justice Department.
If convicted, the accused could face hefty fines and jail terms of up to 20 years.
According to a Politico report, last week, the U.S. Department of Education also initiated an investigation into the eight colleges linked to the admission scandal to examine if any federal laws or rules were violated.
“The allegations made and evidence cited by the Department of Justice raise questions about whether your institution is fully meeting its obligations,” the Department of Education letter reads.
The letter was sent to Yale University, the University of California, Los Angeles, Stanford University, Georgetown University, the University of Texas at Austin, Wake Forest University, the University of San Diego and the University of Southern California.