The former dean of Temple University’s business school is pushing back against federal prosecutors who have charged him with orchestrating a complex fraud scheme to boost the college’s national rankings — and he’s drawing upon past scandals involving Chris Christie and John Bolaris to do it.

In filings seeking the dismissal of an indictment that threatens to send him to prison for decades, Moshe Porat contends that prosecutors relied upon a “novel and flawed” interpretation of federal wire fraud statute.

At issue is whether the false data Porat, 74, and others at the Fox School of Business allegedly submitted to U.S. News & World Report — the magazine whose influential annual college rankings are the subject of fierce competition among universities — actually defrauded anyone out of money or property, a requirement under the law under which the former dean is charged.

The same question tripped up federal prosecutors who won convictions against two allies of New Jersey’s onetime governor in the 2013 Bridgegate scandal and against two Miami Beach club owners accused of fleecing Bolaris, the longtime TV weatherman, and others by hiring “bar girls” to lure them into their establishments and prod them into running up tabs on pricey liquor.

Both cases were overturned on appeal.

“The question in [Porat’s] case is whether submitting inaccurate information to U.S. News & World Report is a federal crime,” his lawyers Michael A. Schwartz and Jay P. Lefkowitz wrote in a submission to the court last month. Their conclusion: “It is not.”

» READ MORE: Ousted Temple business school dean indicted on fraud charges tied to college rankings scandal

But in announcing the charges against Porat in April, acting U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams laid out the government’s view of who was actually victimized by the deceptions that propelled Fox’s online and part-time MBA programs to the top of U.S. News’ rankings from 2015 to 2018:

Students who, drawn by the prestigious distinction, paid roughly $60,000-a-year in tuition to enroll in part-time and online MBA programs. Donors induced by the school’s success to support it. And Temple itself, which has had to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in civil settlements with state and federal monitors and ex-Fox students who sued for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, among other claims.

“Moshe Porat allegedly misrepresented information about Fox’s application and acceptance process, and therefore the student-body itself, in order to defraud the rankings system, potential students and donors,” Williams said at the time. “His conduct, as alleged, undermines the integrity of the entire academic system and forever hurts the students who worked so hard for admission.”

» READ MORE: Ousted Temple dean Moshe Porat was a rainmaker for the business school

While not conceding that Porat had anything to do with the false data Fox sent to U.S. News, Porat’s attorneys say that even if he had, that still isn’t enough to convict him.

The U.S. Supreme Court clarified the boundaries of the federal wire fraud law last year in its unanimous decision in the Bridgegate case, ruling that prosecutors, to secure a conviction, must prove not just a scheme of dishonesty but also one in which obtaining money or property was the central goal, not just an ancillary one.

The Christie allies — deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly and William Baroni, his top political appointee at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — were convicted of fraud after seeking political vengeance against a North Jersey mayor who had refused to endorse Christie by ordering a costly and unnecessary traffic study that increased congestion in his town.

But because the primary goal of their conspiracy was retribution and not the misspending of the taxpayer funds, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that Kelly and Baroni could not be convicted under the wire fraud statute.

“So, too, here,” Porat’s attorneys argue in their bid to dismiss his case. “The monetary effects of the alleged scheme on Fox School students and donors are incidental. …. The inescapable conclusion is that this alleged scheme was an effort to increase the prestige of the Fox School’s [online and part-time MBA] programs — not a scheme that was ever meant to steal from the Fox school’s students or trick them into overpaying.”

Fox’s tuition rates for its online and part-time MBA programs remained relatively stable during the years they sat atop the U.S. News rankings list — and actually decreased during one of those years.

The students, Porat’s lawyers contend, got exactly what their tuition money paid for — a graduate business degree — even if they were induced into getting it from Fox by flawed rankings.

That line of argument helped snarl the case against the club owners in Miami Beach accused of swindling Bolaris and 87 others.

Prosecutors had accused the defendants of defrauding their customers by paying attractive women to lure marks into their bars and to goad them into ringing up large tabs on fancy bottles of Dom Pérignon and Russian vodka. Bolaris testified he believed that he’d been drugged by the women and only discovered the next day that he’d run up a $43,000 charge on his credit card.

» READ MORE: Drugged & duped: Bolaris' perfect storm

But while a jury found the owners guilty, a federal appellate court tossed the convictions in 2016, saying that no fraud had occurred, at least in the legal sense, if the customers received what they’d paid for — even if they’d been deceived on the specific arrangement between the women and the club owners.

Prosecutors have not filed a response to Porat’s arguments in court and declined to comment on them. U.S. District Judge Gerald J. Pappert has not yet scheduled a hearing on the matter — or on other recent motions from Porat’s lawyers attacking the case.

Porat was fired when the scandal came to light in 2018. Two others charged in the rankings fraud — former Fox administrator Marjorie O’Neill, and Isaac Gottlieb, a former statistics professor who cracked the criteria behind the U.S. News’ system — have both pleaded guilty.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, O’Neill, but not Gottlieb, could be called upon to testify against Porat should his case head to trial as scheduled July 6.

The former dean remains free on a $25,000 recognizance bond.