The college admissions scam involving Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman shows how some rich families use a “side door” to game an already unfair education system.
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A Georgetown University undergraduate student whose dad has already pleaded guilty to paying $400,000 to the ringleader of a nationwide college admissions bribery scheme is now suing the school.
Adam Semprevivo, the son of Los Angeles executive Stephen Semprevivo, sued Georgetown in Washington D.C. federal court Wednesday, arguing the university has deprived him of due process and violated procedures outlined in the university’s honor system as it investigates his admissions into the school and considers discipline.
The younger Semprevivo, who just completed his junior year at Georgetown and claims no knowledge of his father’s payment, is seeking an injunction in the civil lawsuit that would stop Georgetown from imposing academic discipline against him – including expelling him – and nullifying his earned credits.
His attorneys have made the case that the school’s honor council system, written in Georgetown’s student handbook, is a contract between Semprevivo and the school that the latter violated in several ways.
“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 (in tuition already paid), and may forever bar Semprevivo from transferring his earned credits to another university,” the lawsuit reads.
Georgetown did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Attorneys for Adam Semprevivo – whose legal representation includes his father’s lead defense attorney David Kenner – say he offered to withdraw last month from Georgetown if the school agreed to keep his credits in tact and not expel him. But the legal counsel for Georgetown informed Semprevivo Tuesday it won’t, the lawsuit claims.
Stephen Semprevivo pleaded guilty May 7 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud charges in a deal with prosecutors.
He admitted to writing a $400,000 check in April 2016 from his family trust to a sham nonprofit operated by Ring Singer, the scheme’s ringleader, after his son was admitted into Georgetown. A portion of the money was allegedly paid to then-tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who had designated the son as a Georgetown tennis player even though he knew he didn’t play the sport competitively.
Ernst, like the 49 other defendants in the Justice Department’s sweeping case, was charged with crimes in March and has pleaded not guilty.
But the son’s lawsuit says the university as early as 2017 had started investigating Ernst, who is accused of taking bribes from Singer to designate at least 12 applicants as Georgetown tennis recruits
Ernst was put on leave in December 2017 after his recruiting and admissions irregularities and internal investigation, according to the suit. The school adopted a new admissions policy in 2018 that required audits to determine whether recruited athletes were not on rosters of the sports for which they recruited. Ernst was terminated in 2018 and later became the head tennis coach at the University of Rhode Island.
“Despite having knowledge of the misdeeds of Coach Ernst and Semprevivo’s admission issues relating to Coach Ernst,” the lawsuit reads, “Defendant: (1) continued to knowingly accept tuition payments for Semprevivo, (2) allowed Semprevivo to take and complete courses, and (3) allowed Semprevivo to earn credits for completed courses.”
Adam Semrepvivo has maintained a 3.18 grade-point average at Georgetown, the lawsuit says, and his SAT score of a 1980 and his weighted GPA of a 4.067 were within Georgetown’s academic standards.
The lawsuit claims that Georgetown has failed to conduct disciplinary proceedings into Adam Semprevivo’s admissions “with any notions of fundamental fairness.” That includes failing to follow procedural steps, according to the lawsuit, and already telling him that sanctions will be imposed before the investigation is even concluded.
The suit alleges Georgetown violated 10 procedures outlined in the school’s honor system for how to handle investigations. They include rules that a written report be made on the violation; an investigations officer be appointed; a hearing board be organized for the matter; and that the student has a right to appeal evidence.
“Virtually all aspects of the disciplinary procedures were ignored by Georgetown – despite Semprevivo calling attention to the violations throughout all phases of this process,” the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit also says it was Singer who submitted Adam Semprevivo’s college application to Georgetown and typed in Semprevivo’s name in the signature block. The lawsuit says Semprevivo at no point ever signed the application.
“Despite the fact that these misrepresentations could have been easily verified and
debunked before Georgetown formally admitted Semprevivo in April 2016, no one at
Georgetown did so,” it says.
The lawsuit says Adam Semprevivo was told by Singer, who worked as a college admissions consultant, that Ernst would provide a recommendation for his application.
Prosecutors have pointed to emailed instructions they say Singer sent in August 2015 to Stephen Semprevivo, his spouse and his son prior to the application being submitted. The email advised the 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.
Adam Semprevivo was actually a basketball player, a distinction reflected in his transcript, the lawsuit says. the transcript makes no reference to tennis, yet according to the lawsuit, the “application filled out by Singer” emphasizes tennis credentials.
The lawsuit argues that Georgetown made no inquiry into the “obvious inconsistency.”
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