Ambler man under probation and house arrest for bribing Georgetown tennis coach

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BOSTON – An Ambler man who pleaded guilty Thursday to bribing a Georgetown University tennis coach to get his daughter into school was sentenced to about a month in home confinement.

Prosecutors said Robert Rebella, a former pharmaceutical executive, agreed to pay at least $120,000 to then-Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Earnest to hire his daughter as a tennis employee at Washington, DC.

Unlike other parents accused in the sprawling college admissions bribery scandal who bribed coaches and others through an intermediary — admissions counselor, Rick Singer — Rebella arranged the deal directly with Earnest, prosecutors said.

Rebella was sentenced to one year in prison with house arrest until Labor Day. He was also sentenced to 220 hours of community service and fined $220,000.

Prosecutors pursued bars for a month, saying he “played an active role in the scheme by initiating emails and holding meetings with Ernst.”

Rebella’s attorney said in court papers that his client’s daughter had the grades and athletic ability to get into Georgetown and play tennis there.

Ernst told Rebella that he had to support the tennis program if he wanted his daughter to play there, and instructed him to write blank checks to make sure the money actually went into the program, but Ernst took the money instead, Rebella’s lawyer said.

“This was a case of my father offering an extra price—he was fortunate enough to be able to afford it—and making the poor decision to pay it,” Robert Fisher, Rebella’s attorney, wrote in court papers.

Rebella pleaded guilty in 2020 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Ernst, who trained former President Barack Obama’s family, was sentenced in July to two and a half years in prison for paying more than $3 million in bribes in exchange for helping wealthy parents cheat their children on their way to school. Ernst’s sentence is by far the longest sentence handed down in the class case.

Singer is due to be sentenced in November. He pleaded guilty to several felonies after helping authorities build the huge case by secretly recording his conversations with parents and athletic coaches.

More than 50 people were convicted in the “Operation Varsity Blues” case that made headlines in March 2019.

The jury acquitted the last accused linked to the investigation, to be referred to trial, of all charges against him. Another defendant was pardoned by former President Donald Trump and a third defendant secured a deal that is expected to result in his case being dismissed.

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