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College admissions scandal: Dad sentenced to 4 months in prison for $400K bribe

The businessman pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy after authorities said he paid to get his son admitted to Georgetown University as a fake tennis recruit.

BOSTON — A Los Angeles businessman was sentenced Thursday to four months in prison for paying $400,000 to get his son into Georgetown University as a fake tennis recruit.

Stephen Semprevivo, 53, pleaded guilty in May to a single count of fraud and conspiracy in a deal with prosecutors. He is the third parent to be sentenced in a sweeping college admissions scandal that has ensnared dozens of wealthy mothers and fathers.

Authorities say Semprevivo conspired with admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer to get his son into Georgetown as a tennis recruit, even though he did not play the sport competitively. His son was admitted to Georgetown in 2016 but was expelled over the scheme earlier this year.

Semprevivo was also sentenced to two years of supervised release, 500 hours of community service, a fine of $100,000 and possible restitution to Georgetown to be decided later.

Prosecutors recommended 13 months in prison, a $95,000 fine and restitution of at least $105,000 to cover legal fees incurred by Georgetown. Semprevivo's lawyers said he deserved a sentence of probation or home confinement, plus 2,000 hours of community service.

In an Aug. 17 letter asking for leniency, Semprevivo said he was driven by "foolish ambition" for his son's happiness. He said he accepts "total and full" responsibility but also said he was drawn in and manipulated by Singer.

"Looking back, I can see that Rick Singer worked me over and got me to do and believe things I am ashamed of and deeply regret," he wrote. "I wanted the future for my son that he had worked so hard for. This was the main factor in my bad judgment."

He was accused of paying $400,000 to a sham charity operated by Singer in 2016. Authorities say Singer then bribed Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst to label Semprevivo's son and the children of other Singer clients as recruited athletes. Singer has pleaded guilty to federal charges. Ernst, who was fired by Georgetown, pleaded not guilty.

Days after Semprevivo pleaded guilty, his son sued Georgetown in an attempt to block his expulsion, saying the school was unfairly trying to discipline him for a scheme that it "knew or should have known about" for two years. The lawsuit was withdrawn in July.

Prosecutors said Semprevivo deserved prison time because he failed to take full responsibility, and because he paid one of the largest bribes and enlisted his son in the scheme. They argued that Semprevivo orchestrated his son's lawsuit against Georgetown to avoid the consequences of his actions.

"Semprevivo defrauded Georgetown, and then sought to hold Georgetown accountable (with damages) for not discovering his fraud," prosecutors wrote in a Sept. 19 court document. "Semprevivo wants credit for contrition and acceptance of responsibility, but he exhibits neither."

Semprevivo's lawyers previously said a prison term would go too far and would harm his family. They said his younger son, who was not involved in the scheme, suffers from a serious medical condition and that losing his father's presence "would negatively impact his recovery."

An entrepreneur who has spent much of career at technology companies, Semprevivo said he lost his job over the scandal and has been unable to find new work. Most recently he was executive vice president of Cydcor, a California company that helps companies outsource their sales teams.

Earlier this week, Los Angeles business executive Devin Sloane was sentenced to four months in prison after pleading guilty to paying $250,000 to get his son into the University of Southern California as a fake water polo star.

Fifteen parents have pleaded guilty in the scheme, while 19 are contesting the charges, including "Full House" actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into USC as fake athletes.