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His wealthy dad admitted bribing his way into Georgetown. Now he’s suing to block expulsion

Stephen Semprevivo
California businessman Stephen Semprevivo departs federal court May 7 in Boston after pleading guilty to charges that he bribed the Georgetown tennis coach to get his son admitted to the school.
(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

The son of a Los Angeles executive who admitted paying a $400,000 bribe to secure a spot at Georgetown for his child as a tennis recruit sued the university to prevent it from kicking him out and nullifying his college credits.

Ten hours after the lawsuit landed in the federal court system early Wednesday, Georgetown University informed Adam Semprevivo, a junior at the college and the son of Stephen Semprevivo, it was rescinding his offer of admission.

“I guess the dean of admissions stayed up all night conducting the entire investigation,” said David Kenner, the student’s attorney.

“If they get to do this, he will lose his credits for three years at Georgetown,” Kenner said, noting he had paid $200,000 for three years of classes. The attorney said the lawsuit will be amended to prevent any action by the university and to note his client’s lack of due process.

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The lawsuit alleges the college was seeking to academically discipline him even though he knew nothing of the bribe his father paid college consultant William “Rick” Singer.

Singer, in turn, paid Georgetown’s then-tennis coach to fake documents indicating that Adam Semprevivo was a tennis recruit and let him into the elite university. The student is the first among dozens of wealthy families ensnared in the far-reaching college admissions scandal to sue a university in connection with the scam.

Semprevivo offered to withdraw from Georgetown if he could keep his credits for his work there over three years. According to the lawsuit filed in Washington, D.C., federal court, Georgetown’s legal counsel told Semprevivo on Tuesday the school would not agree to that deal. The lawsuit seeks an injunction preventing the school from expelling him.

Georgetown declined to comment on the pending litigation but a spokeswoman said Wednesday that two students were informed of the university’s intent “to rescind their admission and dismiss them from Georgetown.”

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Meghan Dubyak acknowledged that in 2017 the admissions office discovered irregularities in the athletic credentials of two students who were being recruited to play tennis, although neither student was admitted.

Following the federal indictments earlier this year in connection with the college admissions scandal, Georgetown began reviewing newly available information related to the scheme, she said.

“Applicants to Georgetown affirm that the information and statements contained in their applications are true, correct and complete. Knowingly misrepresenting or falsifying credentials in an application can be cause for rescinding the admission of the student and dismissal from Georgetown,” Dubyak said. “Today, we informed two students of our intent to rescind their admission and dismiss them from Georgetown. Each student case was addressed individually, and each student was given multiple opportunities to respond and provide information to the university.”

Semprevivo has a 3.18 grade-point average at Georgetown. He entered the school with an SAT score of 1980 out of 2400 and a high school GPA of 4.067 from Campbell Hall, a private school in Studio City. Both of those statistics were within Georgetown’s academic standards at the time of his entry in 2016, the suit notes.

“The threatened expulsion and loss of credits, predicated on numerous material violations of the contract between Semprevivo and Defendant, has precluded Semprevivo from receiving a degree from Georgetown, deprived his family of over $200,000 … and may forever bar Semprevivo from transferring his earned credits to another university,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that Georgetown took money from the student for tuition even after beginning its investigation into tennis coach Gordon Ernst in 2017. Ernst was placed on leave by the university in December 2017, four months before Semprevivo’s father was arrested on bribery charges.

The university said it was conducting an investigation.

Georgetown’s attorney, Adam Adler, said he and university officials “will be gathering information relating to this matter, including from Mr. Semprevivo. … Once the information is gathered, it will be summarized and provided to Mr. Semprevivo and to the dean of admissions. … The university may take any action, up to and including rescission of admission and dismissal from the university.”

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Stephen Semprevivo, 53, pleaded guilty May 7 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud charges in a Boston courtroom. As part of his plea deal, prosecutors agreed to recommend an 18-month prison sentence. He is slated to be sentenced Sept. 7.

The executive admitted to writing a $400,000 check in April 2016 from his family trust to Singer’s charity, Key Worldwide Foundation, to take advantage of a so-called “side door” into Georgetown. Singer created a fake history of youth tennis and then paid Ernst to designate Adam Semprevivo as a recruit, going so far as to submit an essay of the student’s tennis prowess even though he had never played competitively.

Singer has pleaded guilty to money laundering, obstruction of justice, racketeering and conspiracy to defraud the United States in the scheme, which began in 2011.

Ernst is charged taking bribes from Singer to designate at least a dozen applicants as Georgetown tennis recruits and is accused of accepting $2.7 million in bribes between 2012 and 2018. He has pleaded not guilty.

In the Semprevivo suit, attorney David Kenner — who represents both father and son — alleges that Ernst was placed on leave in December 2017 after the university discovered admissions irregularities. He was subsequently terminated in 2018.

According to court documents, Georgetown knew of Ernst’s conduct and how it related to Adam Semprevivo’s admission but took no action, continuing to accept tuition payments from the Semprevivos and allowing Adam Semprevivo to take and complete courses and earn college credits.

Semprevivo, however, says that he is an innocent party to the scam and that he never even signed application papers to Georgetown, noting that Singer submitted the application to the school and typed in his name in the signature block.

Full coverage: Dozens charged — including Hollywood actresses — in connection with college admissions scheme »

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richard.winton@latimes.com

Twitter: @lacrimes


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