As more rocks are being turned over, more parents are falling at the hands of the world's largest college admissions scandal. Most recently, an executive from Los Angeles pled guilty to conspiracy charges for paying $400,000 in bribes to William Rick Singer, the scandal's mastermind, in order to get his son into Georgetown University, according to USA Today.
Stephen Semprevivo struck a deal with prosecutors and pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Semprevivo is an executive at Cydcor, a “privately held provider of outsourced sales teams.” He appeared before US District Court Judge Indira Talwani, who accepted the plea agreement earlier this week. He is now the third parent and the eighth overall defendant to plead guilty. Another 11 parents have agreed to plead guilty, but will have to wait until their hearings toward the end of the month to have their pleas ruled on.
Semprevivo wrote a $400,000 check from his family trust to a nonprofit operated by Singer in April 2016 after his son was admitted into Georgetown. A portion of that money was then paid to tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who had falsely designated Semprevivo's son as a Georgetown tennis player to facilitate his entry to the university.
The Justice Department had recommended a prison sentence of 18 months for Semprevivo, substantially lower than the maximum of 20 years, as a result of the plea. They’ve also recommended a fine of $95,000, one year of supervision and restitution to pay for Georgetown’s attorney fees.
A sentencing hearing is set for Sept. 11, where the judge will finalize the penalties.
Singer allegedly emailed instructions to Semprevivo in August 2015, asking his son to "send his transcript, test scores and a note Singer had drafted explaining how he looks forward to playing tennis at Georgetown to Ernst."
Ernest, in receipt of the email later that day from Semprevivo's son, then forwarded it to an admissions staff member. In October of 2015, Singer provided the son an essay to use for his application. Part of the essay said:
“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.”
The son's application claimed that he played singles and doubles tennis all four years of high school and was ranked. It called him a “CIF Scholar Athlete” and “Academic All American” in tennis and basketball. The son was told in November 2015 that his application - "at the request" of Ernst - was put into the likely category of those admitted to the university. He was granted admission in April 2016.
Prosecutors relied on recorded conversations between Semprevivo and Singer in 2018 related to the transactions in their complaint. Singer had called Semprevivo, while cooperating with authorities, while under the guise of making sure "[they] were on the same page as [he] talk[ed] to the IRS."
Neither [Singer nor Semprevivo] seem to object to Singer's description during phone conversations that took place in October and December 2018.
But the tone changed during a final phone call that occurred March 3, less than two weeks before Semprevivo, Singer and 48 others were formally charged of crimes. In the call, Singer tells Semprevivo that he got a call from Georgetown that they're investigating internally why several students who weren't tennis players were admitted as tennis players through Ernst:
Semprevivo: "You know, all I know is that we, you know, we used you for the charity stuff and we used you for the counseling, and your dealings are your dealings. And so, you know."
Singer: "No I get that. And I understand that, but at the same time we were all a part of ... "
Semprevivo: "No, I don’t agree with that at all."
Singer: "You don’t agree that we got him in through tennis and you didn’t know
Semprevivo: "I don’t. I don’t. I do -- you know, you did what you did ... and that
was your stuff. Okay?"
Meanwhile, tennis coach Ernst left Georgetown to become the head women's tennis coach at the University of Rhode Island in 2018. He pled not-guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges last month and is accused of taking more than $2.7 million in bribes.
Semprevivo is the latest in a series of parents who have made national headlines due to their part in the scandal. At the beginning of May, we reported that a Morgan Stanley advisor Michael Wu, based in Pasadena-Calif lost his job for referring clients to Singer.
Considering that many of these families were introduced to Singer through their advisors, Semprevivo and Wu's heads might not be the last ones to roll...