Former Wake Forest coach's U.S. college scandal charges could be dropped in deal

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: William Ferguson arrives at the federal courthouse in Boston

By Nate Raymond

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former women's volleyball coach at Wake Forest University accused of participating in a vast U.S. college admissions fraud and bribery scheme has struck a deal with federal prosecutors that could result in the charges against him being dropped.

Federal prosecutors in Boston in a deferred prosecution agreement unsealed on Tuesday agreed to dismiss the case against William Ferguson after two years if he pays a $50,000 fine and complies with other conditions.

Ferguson, 51, also accepted responsibility for his role in the college admissions scandal, acknowledging he agreed in 2017 to help the scheme's mastermind secure the admission of a student as a volleyball recruit in exchange for "purported donations."

The mastermind, college admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer, paid $100,000 to three accounts, including $40,000 to the Winston-Salem, North Carolina school's volleyball program and $50,000 to a private volleyball camp Ferguson controlled.

Ferguson's lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

The agreement's unsealing came after a federal jury on Friday in the first trial in the scandal found two wealthy fathers guilty of trying to buy their children's way into elite universities as phony athletic recruits.

Ferguson and the two fathers, former casino executive Gamal Aziz and private equity firm founder John Wilson, are among 57 people who were charged over a scheme in which parents conspired to fraudulently secure college placement for their children.

They did so with the help of Singer, who pleaded guilty in 2019 to facilitating college entrance exam cheating and using bribery to secure the admission of students as fake athletes.

Forty-seven people have agreed to plead guilty, including "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin and "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman.

Ferguson until recently was scheduled to go on trial in November alongside Donna Heinel, a former University of Southern California senior associate athletic director, and former USC water polo coach Jovan Vavic.

They have pleaded not guilty. A federal judge recently indicated they would be tried separately.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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