"Zimny, whom they had come to trust based on their interaction with him and his representations, including without limitation his representation that he was a Harvard professor, promised to watch over their sons to ensure not only their educational success but also their safety and assimilation in the United States," the suit says.
Eventually, the suit says, Zimny asked for a $1 million retainer for each child, which the Chows paid.
"Zimny represented that this $2 million retainer would be part of a big pool of money contributed by similar Asian, mainly Korean, families," the complaint states. "He stated that the purpose of this pool of money was to help their sons and daughters to gain admission to colleges of their choice in the United States."
Eventually, the relationship between the Chows and Zimny "began to deteriorate" in the summer of 2009. At that time, the Chows learned that Zimny had not been authorized to recruit for the Loomis Chaffee boarding school in Connecticut as they say he had claimed.
In the fall of 2009, the Chows claim Zimny requested they provide another $1 million for a development contribution to Stanford University.
Mr. Chow, however, said that he wanted to make the contribution in memory of his late mother. Zimny refused, "stating that the $1 million contribution had to be made through him." Chow did not make the contribution.
Zimny admits to accepting the $1 million fee for each son but argues in his motion to dismiss the suit that it "was proposed as an option and ultimately was chosen and later insisted on by the Chows."
A status conference is scheduled for mid-November, according to court documents, as the two-year-old case moves forward.
Rheault said it is common for families, especially families not familiar with the college admissions process, to seek professional guidance for their children's education and future, even paying thousands to do so.
With budget cuts at public schools, educators and guidance counselors have limited resources to help hundreds of students at a time. A study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling from 2005 indicated that the average public high school student received about 38 minutes of college advising per year from their guidance counselor.
And with families from emerging markets like Brazil or China willing to spend more money, "getting into an Ivy League school has become an arms race," Rheault said.
The Boston Globe reports that the boys, not named in the lawsuits, eventually went to elite schools, just not Harvard.
"Who wants to take the accomplishment away from them?" she said. "As parents, whether they're wealthy or not, what parent doesn't want the best education for their kids?"