Ex-Harvard lecturer convicted of bilking Hong Kong jewellery magnate

BOSTON (REUTERS) - A former Harvard lecturer was convicted by a Boston jury of stealing more than US$600,000 (S$820,000) from a couple in Hong Kong, after they paid him more than US$2 million to help get their sons accepted into Ivy League schools.

Mark Zimny, who taught sociology at Harvard more than 10 years ago, was convicted of 13 counts of fraud in US federal court.

He was released on US$100,000 bail and is due for sentencing on July 9, the US Attorney's Office in Massachusetts said in a release issued Thursday.

While running a Cambridge-based company called IvyAdmit, Zimny persuaded Hong Kong jewellery magnate Gerald Chow and his wife Lily to pay him a US$2 million retainer for educational consulting in 2008.

He later convinced the couple that elite schools would accept their two sons if they made generous donations, and the couple gave Zimny about US$650,000.

"Rather than delivering the funds to the schools as he promised, however, Zimny embezzled the funds for his own purposes," the US Attorney's Office said.

Albert S. Watkins, Zimny's attorney, said he disputed the conviction, and plans to file a motion to interview the case's jurors after finding a blog post about the case written by an anonymous author claiming to have been on the jury.

"We are very concerned about what appears to be jury misconduct," said Watkins, adding that such misconduct, if proven, could lead to a mistrial.

The Chows have also filed a civil suit to recover the more than US$2 million they say they paid to Zimny.

Zimny, who now lives in California, was found not guilty by the Boston jury on a 14th count, of fraud against a Massachusetts bank.