Parent who paid $400,000 to get his child into Georgetown pleads guilty

A man who paid $400,000 to get his child into Georgetown University under the guise that he was a tennis recruit pleaded guilty Tuesday to participating in t...

Posted: May 7, 2019 8:22 AM
Updated: May 8, 2019 1:49 PM

A man who paid $400,000 to get his child into Georgetown University under the guise that he was a tennis recruit pleaded guilty Tuesday to participating in the college admissions scam.

Stephen Semprevivo, a Los Angeles-based executive, is the latest parent to plead guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud stemming from the largest collegiate entrance scam ever prosecuted, authorities said.

Prosecutors will recommend 18 months in prison for participating in the scheme that was spearheaded by William Rick Singer, according to Semprevivo's plea agreement.

Semprevivo's attorney declined to comment.

Semprevivo was the chief strategy and growth officer at Cydcor, a business that works in outsourced sales services, according to an old version of the company's website. He is no longer on the website.

Semprevivo is one of 33 parents charged in connection with the cheating scandal. Fourteen have pleaded guilty, while another 19, including actress Lori Loughlin, are fighting the charges.

According to the criminal complaint, in August of 2015 Singer emailed Semprevivo, his wife and their son instructions on what to email Gordon Ernst, the head coach of the Georgetown University Tennis team, such as claiming he was a tennis star even though he hadn't played competitively.

The next day, Semprevivo's son also emailed Ernst a copy of his transcript and SAT scores.

Then in October, Semprevivo's son sent in his college application, where he said he played tennis all four years and included an essay about his skills on the court.

'When I walk into a room, people will normally look up and make a comment about my height -- I'm 6'5 -- and ask me if I play basketball. With a smile, I nod my head, but also insist that the sport I put my most energy into is tennis,' wrote Semprevivo's son in his essay according to the complaint.

In April 2016, after Semprevivo's son was sent a letter accepting him to Georgetown University, Singer sent an email which included an invoice for a $400,000 'private contribution,' according to the complaint.

Days later, Semprevivo sent a $400,000 check to the Key Worldwide Foundation, the alleged charity Singer used to pay co-conspirators such as Gordon Ernst, prosecutors said.

Between September 2015 and November 2016, Singer paid Ernst $950,000 for his help getting Semprevivo's son into Georgetown along with two others, prosecutors said in the complaint.

Recorded phone calls

After Singer was caught by federal authorities and agreed to work with investigators, the scam mastermind called Semprevivo in March 2019 to talk to him about how Georgetown was conducting an internal investigation to find out why tennis recruits were not playing for the tennis team.

After a back-and-forth over the phone with Singer, Semprevivo denied knowing that Singer got his son into the university using Ernst, prosecutors said in the complaint.

'You know, I don't have any details, but I think that, I think that you need to be accountable for what you did,' Semprevivo allegedly told Singer over the phone.

Ernst, along with other coaches and school administrators, has pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges.

Ernst's attorney did not immediately return a request for comment.

Prosecutors said the defendants carried out a scheme to cheat on standardized tests and/or bribe college coaches, who then helped the prospective students gain admission to a university by falsely claiming the students were athletic recruits.

Singer, the mastermind of the scheme, has pleaded guilty as did Rudy Meredith, the Yale women's soccer coach who accepted a bribe to help a student get admitted; and Mark Riddell, who cheated for the students on the SATs and ACTs. All are cooperating witnesses for prosecutors. John Vandemoer, the former Stanford head sailing coach, has also pleaded guilty.

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