Coaches in Admissions Scandal Plead Not Guilty

William “Rick” Singer, right, founder of the Edge College & Career Network, leaves federal court in Boston after pleading guilty on March 12, 2019, to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (CN) – The first batch of defendants in the admissions bribery scandal was arraigned today in Boston, with a dozen college sports coaches and school administrators pleading not guilty to federal racketeering charges.

This afternoon’s proceedings mark the first major hearing in the case since indictments were unsealed on March 12 against a few dozen college coaches, administrators and wealthy parents, including corporate CEOs and the actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman.

Rick Singer, who pleaded guilty on March 12, is the alleged mastermind of a scheme to help families enroll their teens at top universities by either cheating on the SAT or ACT exams or by having the students designated as athletes to lower the admissions threshold.

Listing the charges and possible sentences just once for the benefit of all defendants, U.S. Magistrate Page Kelley said that each faces one count of racketeering and conspiracy, which potentially carries a 20-year sentence and $250,000 fine, along with a forfeiture order for twice the amount of any received bribes.

Gordon Ernst, a tennis coach at Georgetown; William Ferguson, a volleyball coach at Wake Forest; Jorge Salcedo, a soccer coach at the University of California – Los Angelas; and Donna Heinel, Laura Janke, Ali Khosroshahin and Jovan Vavic, of the University of Southern California, were all arraigned.

Martin Fox, who was president of a private tennis academy in Houston, and Igor Dvorskiy and Lisa Niki Williams, who both administered SAT tests in California and Houston, Texas, were also arraigned along with former Singer employees Steven Masera and Mikaela Sanford.

Ferguson’s attorney Shaun Clark was among the few lawyers that had any comment at the hearing.

“No one gets into Wake Forest who doesn’t deserve it,” he said.

Singer founded The Edge College & Career Network, which is also known as The Key, in 2007 and incorporated it five years later. Prosecutors say Singer also created a charitable nonprofit called the Key Worldwide Foundation that was used to funnel the bribes.

Over the next few weeks, additional arraignments are scheduled for “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and her fashion-designer husband, Mossimo, on March 28, and for Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” on April 3.

Kelley scheduled the initial status conference for the 12 defendants for June 3.

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