A former dean of Temple University's business school was convicted Monday of fraud in a scheme to boost the school's rankings by providing false information to U.S. News & World Report's prestigious annual surveys to maximize tuition dollars and donations, federal officials said.
The man, Moshe Porat, 74, who was dean of Temple’s Richard J. Fox School of Business Management from 1996 to 2018, conspired to deceive the school's applicants, students and donors into believing the school offered top-ranked business degree programs, the U.S. Attorney's Office for Eastern Pennsylvania said in a statement Monday.
Porat, of Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, was indicted in April on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of wire fraud, officials said.
The information Porat and alleged co-conspirators provided about student test scores, work experience and other data helped the Philadelphia university's business school claim the top spot on the publication's influential list of online MBA programs for several years and quadruple its enrollment.
U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams said in a statement: "A jury reaffirmed that wire fraud is a federal crime even when perpetrated within the system of higher education in the United States."
"Moshe Porat misrepresented information about Fox's application and acceptance process, and therefore about the student-body itself, in order to defraud the rankings system, potential students, and donors," she said. "This case was certainly unusual, but at its foundation it is just a case of fraud and underlying greed. We respect the jury's verdict and thank its members for their service."
Neither Porat nor his lawyer could be immediately reached for comment Tuesday morning.
The indictment in April followed both a state investigation by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro — which led to a settlement with Temple — and a $25 million defamation lawsuit Porat filed against Temple and its president over his 2018 ouster.
Porat's defense lawyer, Michael A. Schwartz, said after his indictment, "Dr. Porat dedicated forty years of his life to serving Temple University, first as a faculty member, and ultimately as dean of the Fox Business School, and he did so with distinction."
Porat eventually made more than $600,000 a year as dean. He continued to receive more than $300,000 as a tenured professor, although he has not taught since 2018, the indictment said.
Porat ordered his staff members to send inaccurate information about the program after he learned that U.S. News & World Report lacked the resources to audit any of the data submitted by the schools, according to the indictment. Two of them have also been charged.
The school charged about $60,000 for its online MBA and enrolled more than 330 students by 2017, before the scandal broke and it was removed from the rankings. By 2019, enrollment had dropped to 106.
"U.S. News is dedicated to objectivity and transparency in our mission of helping readers make important decisions," the publication said in a statement sent to NBC News. "Regarding the Temple trial and verdict, the jury has spoken and we have no comment."
Temple University could not immediately be reached for comment.
NBC News Philadelphia reported that Temple's online MBA was ranked as the top program in the country starting in 2015, the first time online MBA programs were ranked by the publication. The school remained in the top slot until 2018, officials said.
Porat faces a maximum possible sentence of 25 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release and a $500,000 fine, federal officials have said.