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California dad who claimed he was ‘trapped’ by ‘volatile’ college scam mastermind Rick Singer sentenced to 4 months in prison

2019-09-26

Another parent got four months behind bars Thursday in the college admissions bribery scandal after failing to sidestep prison with claims he was “trapped” by the scam’s “scary” mastermind.

Stephen Semprevivo, 53, also received 500 hours of community service for his admission he paid $400,000 to sneak his son through a “side door” at Georgetown as a fraudulent tennis recruit.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani further ordered the Los Angeles businessman to pay a fine of $100,000.

Before his sentencing, Semprevivo and his lawyer asked for mercy, arguing in court paperwork that the wealthy dad became “trapped” by Singer’s “aggressiveness” and “high pressure sales tactics.”

“Looking back, I can see that Rick Singer worked me over and got me to believe things I am ashamed of and deeply regret,” Semprevivo wrote in a letter to Judge Talwani.

In excerpts of psychological report submitted to the court, Semprevivo portrayed Singer as highly intimidating.

“Rick had a volatile personality. I was afraid of him. I kept thinking what would happen if he erupted, if we pulled out, what would happen to (my son), would he be able to get into any school? I didn’t know,” Semprevivo allegedly said.

“I don’t know if I feared him physically, but I do recall him saying, ‘Don’t make me chase you for the money.’ That was a scary thing to hear him say. So I felt trapped, that I couldn’t back out,” he allegedly said.

“I was concerned and afraid for (my son) about what Rick might do if we didn’t go forward with his plan,” he said, according to the excerpts.

While Semprevivo asked for only probation, the government recommended a sentence of 13 months in prison, one year of supervised release and a fine of $95,000. Prosecutors said Semprevivo “involved his son as an active participant in the scheme” by having the teen send emails to Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst expressing interest in playing tennis at Georgetown.

By April 2016, Semprevivo’s son had been formally admitted to Georgetown and Semprevivo paid $400,000 to Singer’s sham charity, Key Worldwide Foundation.

From that account, Singer allegedly paid Ernst hundreds of thousands of dollars for facilitating the fraudulent recruitment.

Ernst, meanwhile, has been charged by indictment with racketeering conspiracy and has pleaded not guilty.

With the latest sentencing, Judge Talwani has sent the message she believes some amount of prison is the right punishment for the moneyed moms and dads charged in the case.

On Tuesday, fellow California dad Devin Sloane was sentenced to four months in prison and, earlier this month, actress Felicity Huffman was sentenced to two weeks behind bars for paying $15,000 to have a ringer fix answers on her daughter’s SAT exam.

Eight other parents who took early plea deals in the case are scheduled to be sentenced over the next few months.

Among the 19 parents still fighting charges are “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli.

The wealthy couple is accused of staging photos and paying a whopping $500,000 to get their two daughters into USC as fake rowing team recruits, even though the girls had no crew team experience.

Loughlin and Giannulli each been charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud. Both charges carry up to 20 years in federal prison and hefty fines.