An educational consultant was indicted in federal court Friday on charges of defrauding international clients after he had pledged to help get their children into renowned colleges, universities, and boarding schools, the US attorney’s office in Boston said.
Mark J. Zimny of Los Angeles and formerly of Cambridge, is accused of numerous counts of wire fraud and money laundering, US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office said.
Zimny falsely claimed to still be teaching at Harvard University when he allegedly defrauded the clients, Ortiz’s office said. He also allegedly used his educational consulting firm, IvyAdmit Consulting Associates, to collect more than hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients after claiming to use the funds as contributions to targeted schools, Ortiz said.
The allegations against Zimny trace back to 2007.
According to court documents and previous reporting, Gerald and Lily Chow of Hong Kong say Zimny repeatedly lied to them, committed fraud, and breached their contract after they paid $2.2 million for his services to help their two sons succeed in boarding school and be accepted to prestigious universities, including Harvard.
The Chows paid into IvyAdmit after Zimny drew up a plan to help their sons while they attended boarding schools in the United States, offering tutoring from his staff and promising that he would use his connections to assist the boys in getting into top universities, court documents said.
Zimny allegedly warned the Chows that “embedded racism” made development offices wary of Asian donors and said that contributions to schools should be done through him as a middleman to avoid any issues, according to court documents.
The relationship between the Chows and Zimny began to collapse in 2009. They filed a civil lawsuit in 2010 to get their money back.
The Chows believed, according to their complaint, that Zimny’s “statements were false and were intended by Zimny to induce Mr. and Mrs. Chow to engage him to protect and guide their sons while attending schools in the States.”
Zimny’s attorney argued against the Chows’ claims, saying they were not specific enough. especially with the terms of the family’s agreement with Zimny.
“The Chows are displeased with Zimny and they want their money back. But this in itself does not present a claim for relief, and their complaint, as framed, should be dismissed,” Attorney John D. Fitzpatrick wrote.
Documents show that Zimny did take the $2.2 million and that his employees tutored the Chows’ boys.
Zimny now faces criminal fraud charges, and the Chows’ allegations are part of the case.
Neither Zimny nor Fitzpatrick could be reached for comment Friday night.
An attorney for the Chows, Kevin W. Clancy, declined to comment, and Harvard did not respond to a request asking to discuss the charges.
The indictment states that the Chows made wire transfers to Zimny between Nov. 8, 2007, and Oct. 30, 2008, of “development contributions, earmarked for specific schools” totaling more than $600,000.
Zimny did not forward any of the Chows’ “funds, wired to Zimny’s 4219 account for the specific purpose of making development contributions to schools, to any schools on behalf of” the Chows, the indictment charges.
“Instead, Zimny converted the funds to his own use and spent the money for his own personal expenses and purposes,” according to the indictment.
Zimny could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, Ortiz’s office said.Globe correspondent Zachary T. Sampson contributed to this report. Derek J. Anderson can be reached at derek.anderson