An educational consultant accused of defrauding a family in China of more than $2 million has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $839,000 in restitution to the family, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
A jury in April found Mark Zimny guilty of scamming a Hong Kong couple who paid him to help get their sons into elite New England prep schools and colleges.
The case calls attention to the dark side of a growing international admissions consulting industry, as more foreign families seek to send their students to elite US schools at any cost.
Zimny stood trial in March in Boston after he was accused of claiming he was a Harvard professor, even though he no longer taught there. He persuaded Gerald and Lily Chow that his expertise and connections could put their sons on track to the Ivy Leagues.
Prosecutors sought to demonstrate that instead, Zimny spent the Chows’ fortune on himself.
Chow, a jewelry magnate, told the jury how he and his wife repeatedly rushed to wire as much as $250,000 at a time to Zimny, who promised to donate it to prep schools where his sons applied.
Over the course of about three years ending in 2010, the Chows paid Zimny more than $2 million to cover fees to his company, IvyAdmit, and for donations to the prep schools, according to court records.
The donations, Zimny told them, would confront an anti-Asian bias in admissions offices and make the right impression.
“We believed him,” Chow testified in March at the Moakley Courthouse in South Boston.
The judge on Wednesday ordered Zimny to serve 63 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. A jury in federal court in Boston convicted him of 13 of 14 counts: five of wire fraud, five of unlawful monetary transactions, two of false tax returns, and one of bank fraud.
He was not convicted on a second count of bank fraud.