Georgetown student linked to the college admissions scandal is now suing the school
A California man who recently completed his junior year at Georgetown University filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the school, alleging it violated his due process rights after he was linked to the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal in March.
The lawsuit was filed on the same day Georgetown confirmed two unnamed students were being dismissed from the university as a result of the scandal.
Adam Semprevivo filed his civil complaint in federal court in Washington, D.C., where the elite school is located.
He gained admittance to Georgetown as a fake tennis recruit, and his father, Stephen Semprevivo, pleaded guilty May 7 in federal court in Boston to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in connection with the scheme, legal filings show.
Adam Semprevivo’s civil complaint alleges the university “failed to conduct disciplinary proceedings in this case that comply with any notions of fundamental fairness.”
The complaint says Georgetown has “flagrantly violated, and continues to violate, its own [Honor Council System Procedures] in relation to its investigation of [Adam] Semprevivo. Virtually all aspects of the disciplinary procedures were ignored by Georgetown — despite Semprevivo calling attention to the violations throughout all phases of this process.”
Georgetown University spokeswoman Meghan Dubyak said in a statement that the school can’t comment on pending litigation.
“Today, we informed two students of our intent to rescind their admission and dismiss them from Georgetown,” Dubyak said. “Each student case was addressed individually and each student was given multiple opportunities to respond and provide information to the University.”
Georgetown refused to say whether Adam Semprevivo was one of the dismissed students, and his lawyer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
His father was one of 50 people entangled in the admissions scandal, in which parents paid bribes to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer’s charity, in order to have their children falsely presented as athletic recruits at fancy schools, or to facilitate cheating on SAT and ACT exams.
The Semprevivo Family Trust ponied up $400,000 to Singer’s charity in April 2016, in exchange for Singer having Gordon Ernst, then the Georgetown tennis coach, falsely classify Adam Semprevivo as a tennis recruit, records show.
Semprevivo was accepted in April 2016 and never joined the team when he arrived on campus.
But in his civil complaint, Semprevivo, who has attained a 3.18 GPA at Georgetown, maintained he initially didn’t know about his dad’s dirty payment to Singer.
Not until his father was charged earlier this year, the complaint says, did the younger Semprevivo learn “of allegations that his father had paid monies to Singer that were ultimately paid to Coach Ernst in exchange for helping Semprevivo’s admission into Georgetown.”
Ernst stopped coaching at Georgetown in December 2017 and has pleaded not guilty to racketeering conspiracy in connection with the admissions scandal.
Court papers in the elder Semprevivo’s criminal case show that his son at least knew Singer was in the picture during the application process.
According to an affidavit filed in Stephen Semprevivo’s criminal case, Singer sent Stephen Semprevivo and his wife, as well as Adam Semprevivo, an e-mail in August 2015 with the subject line “Dear Coach Ernst.”
Singer “instructed Semprevivo’s son: ‘[P]lease send this note and a PDF of transcripts and test scores to Gordie Ernst Men’s Tennis at Georgetown U from your email — then let me know it is done,’ ” the affidavit said.
The note to Ernst, drafted by Singer, included fabricated claims of Adam Semprevivo’s domination on the tennis court, even though he played high school basketball, not tennis, the criminal affidavit says.
Ernst later e-mailed the note to a member of the Georgetown admissions staff, who responded, “Looks fine,” according to the affidavit. And in October 2015, the criminal affidavit says, Singer e-mailed Stephen and Adam Semprevivo an activity essay for Adam to use with his Georgetown application that again falsely indicated he played tennis.
In his civil complaint filed Wednesday, Adam Semprevivo says he’s hardly the first student to gain admittance to Georgetown with padded credentials.
“Upon information and belief, in its more than 200 year history, Georgetown has had numerous students who have gained admission to school by falsifying or providing misleading information on their application,” the civil complaint says.
And, the civil complaint alleges, Georgetown admissions officials dropped the ball in Adam Semprevivo’s case.
“Singer submitted [Adam] Semprevivo’s application to Georgetown and typed in Semprevivo’s name in the signature block,” the suit says. “At no time did Semprevivo ever sign 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.”
According to the civil complaint, “Semprevivo’s high school transcripts, on their face, reflect that Semprevivo’s athletic endeavor of choice was basketball and that he received credit for his participation on the basketball team. His high school transcripts, which were supplied to Georgetown by Campbell Hall High School, made no reference to Adam ever having played tennis. Yet the application filled out by Singer emphasized Adam to be an Academic All-American ranked tennis player.
The essay, the complaint says, “also written by Singer, solely discussed Adam’s love for tennis . . . Even a cursory examination of the two documents (application vs. transcript) would have made it clear they were absolutely inconsistent with one another. Upon information and belief no inquiry was made by Georgetown, and especially anyone associated with its admissions process, to clarify the obvious inconsistency between the activity essay Singer directed his assistant to use and Semprevivo’s high school transcripts.”
The civil complaint asserts that Georgetown collected more than $100,000 in tuition payments from Semprevivo during the 2018 and 2019 academic years, despite knowing about the issues surrounding Ernst, who had recommended that the school admit Semprevivo.
“Despite having knowledge of the misdeeds of Coach Ernst and Semprevivo’s admission issues relating to Coach Ernst, [Georgetown] : (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,” the civil complaint says, adding that Adam Semprevivo’s high school academic record passed muster for Georgetown.
Adam Semprevivo is seeking a court order barring Georgetown from imposing sanctions on him, removing the academic credits he’s earned at the university, and refusing to let him transfer credits to another school, the civil complaint says. He’s also seeking “any appropriate compensation . . . for any losses suffered or expenses incurred due to Georgetown’s actions,” the complaint says.
Dubyak, the Georgetown spokeswoman, on Wednesday defended the school’s handling of the scandal involving Ernst, who allegedly collected bribes totaling $2.7 million over several years in exchange for falsely designating at least 12 applicants as tennis recruits.
“In 2017, Georgetown’s Admissions Office discovered irregularities in the athletic credentials of two students who were being recruited to play tennis,” Dubyak said. “Neither student was admitted. Georgetown immediately put former coach Gordon Ernst on leave, initiated an internal investigation, established a new policy concerning the recruitment of student athletes, implemented audits to check whether recruited student athletes are on team rosters, and asked Mr. Ernst to resign. During the investigation at this time, we relied on available information and focused on actions taken by the coach that violated University policies.”
Dubyak said Georgetown “was not aware of any alleged criminal activity or acceptance of bribes by Mr. Ernst until it was later contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The indictments filed by the U.S. Attorney this year named Georgetown and six other institutions as victims of fraud. The indictments included allegations that Mr. Ernst and several parents of Georgetown students were among many participants in a scheme that included the falsification of applications for admission and included evidence of student involvement.”
Dubyak said that after the March 2019 criminal indictments, Georgetown “began conducting a process of thoroughly reviewing the newly available information related to the alleged scheme, contacting current students who may have been involved, and giving each individual student an opportunity to respond. 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.”