Additional Charges Filed in College Admissions Case

Racketeering, mail fraud, wire fraud and more...

BOSTON – A federal grand jury in the District of Massachusetts returned a superseding indictment bringing additional charges against seven university athletic officials and others previously charged in the college admissions case today.  

Gordon Ernst, Donna Heinel, Jorge Salcedo, Mikaela Sanford, Jovan Vavic, Niki Williams and William Ferguson have been charged with conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, and honest services mail and wire fraud, in connection with the previously charged scheme to accept bribes and engage in other forms of fraud to facilitate cheating on standardized admissions tests and to secure the admission of students to elite universities by designating them as purported athletic recruits or members of other favored admissions categories. Six of the defendants—Ernst, Heinel, Salcedo, Sanford, Vavic and Williams—also face substantive wire and honest services wire fraud charges in connection with the scheme.

In addition, three defendants, Ernst, Heinel, and Salcedo, face new charges of conspiring to commit federal programs bribery by soliciting and accepting bribes to facilitate the admission of students to the universities where they worked: Georgetown University, the University of Southern California, and The University of California – Los Angeles. Ernst is also charged with substantive counts of federal programs bribery and money laundering.

The defendants, who were arrested in March 2018, were previously charged with racketeering conspiracy in connection with the scheme. 

Arraignment dates have not yet been scheduled. Case information, including the status of each defendant, charging documents and plea agreements are available here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/investigations-college-admissions-and-testing-bribery-scheme.

The charge of racketeering conspiracy provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater and restitution. The charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud provides for a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater and restitution. The charge of money laundering provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and federal programs bribery provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater and restitution. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. 

United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; and Kristina O’Connell, Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigations in Boston, made the announcement today. The Department of Education, Office of Inspector General provided assistance with the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric S. Rosen, Justin D. O’Connell, Leslie A. Wright and Kristen A. Kearney of Lelling’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit are prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.


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