Former URI women’s tennis coach Ernst faces new charges in bribery scheme

PROVIDENCE — Former University of Rhode Island women’s tennis coach Gordon Ernst is facing new federal charges in connection with a large-scale college admissions bribery scheme that includes high-profile parents – including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman – coaches and test administrators.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday that Ernst and six other university athletic officials have been charged with conspiring to commit mail and wire fraud, and honest services mail and wire fraud with the previously charged scheme to accept bribes in order to facilitate cheating on admissions tests. The fraud was allegedly committed by designating prospective college students as athletic recruits in order to be admitted into elite universities.

Ernst also faces substantive wire and honest services wire fraud charges, and was also newly charged with conspiring to commit federal programs bribery by soliciting and accepting bribes to facilitate the admission of students at Georgetown University. Ernst also is charged with substantive counts of federal programs bribery and money laundering.

Ernst was previously charged in March with allegedly receiving more than $2.7 million in fees related to the scheme by designating at least a dozen applicants as tennis recruits at Georgetown, gaining them admission to the university even though some did not play tennis competitively.

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Each charge against Ernst carries a sentence between five and 20 years in prison and fines.

Ernst, who was named the women’s tennis coach at URI in August 2018, was reportedly placed on leave by the university after the initial charges against him were announced. Ernst resigned in March, according to WJAR-TV NBC 10.

James Bessette is a PBN staff writer. Email him at

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