By Mary Cunningham

Former Penn basketball coach Jerome Allen testified last Friday that he was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes by a Miami Beach executive standing trial for Medicare fraud so that the wealthy businessman’s son could get into the Ivy League school.

Allen, who pleaded guilty in October to a bribery-related money-laundering charge, testified as a government witness that healthcare executive Philip Esformes paid him bribes in cash and later through wire transfers so his son, Morris, could qualify as a “recruited” basketball player to help him gain acceptance to Penn and its Wharton School.

“I accepted the money to help Morris Esformes get into the school,” Allen testified during the father’s Medicare fraud trial in Miami federal court. “I got his son into Penn; I got his son into Wharton. None of that would have happened without me.”

Allen said that the son was not qualified to play varsity basketball at Penn and make his short list of eligible players. He said he lied to the university about the son’s qualifications and put him on that list because he had been bribed by Esformes during a series of trips to Miami in 2013. He testified that the father gave him $10,000 in cash each time, the money tucked into a brown envelope stuffed inside a plastic bag, during their meetings in the lobby of the Fontainebleau Hotel.

I lied” to the school’s admissions office, Allen told federal prosecutor Allan Medina on direct examination. “I knew that if it got back to the University of Pennsylvania what I was doing for Morris Esformes, I would be fired.”

In total, Esformes paid Allen about $75,000 in cash bribes and an additional $220,000 in wire transfers into the coach’s bank account between 2013 and 2015.

Allen, who once played at Penn and as a journeyman guard in the NBA, was convicted of accepting bribes, luxury hotel stays, jet travel and limo transportation from Esformes. He is charged with making the illegal payments and is also the main defendant in a massive Medicare fraud case.

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