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Another parent is charged in college admissions scandal, will admit to efforts to get son into Georgetown

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 5/23/2020 Susan Svrluga
a large clock tower sitting under a tree: A California man agreed to plead guilty to using fraud and bribery to help his son gain admission to Georgetown University, federal prosecutors announced Friday. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images) © Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images A California man agreed to plead guilty to using fraud and bribery to help his son gain admission to Georgetown University, federal prosecutors announced Friday. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Another man has been charged in the national college admissions scandal and has agreed to plead guilty to using fraud and bribery to get his son admitted to Georgetown University, federal prosecutors announced Friday.

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It was another sign of the scope of the admissions scheme, nicknamed Varsity Blues by prosecutors, in which wealthy parents paid a private consultant to gain access to selective schools. The admission consultant, William “Rick” Singer, helped families falsely improve applicants’ standardized test scores and created fake athletic profiles to present them as desirable recruits. Singer has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other charges and is cooperating with investigators.

The case resonated because of the anxiety so many families feel over college admissions and their concerns that the system was vulnerable to the corrupting influences of money, celebrity, and athletics.

Beginning in 2015, Peter Dameris, 60, of Pacific Palisades, Calif., conspired with Singer and Georgetown’s tennis coach to get his son into the selective school by presenting him as a tennis recruit even though he did not play tennis competitively, according to prosecutors.

In late September 2015, Dameris’s son was selected for an interview with a Georgetown graduate. Singer told Dameris that it was just a formality, according to prosecutors, but that his son should spend little or no time talking about his experience with competitive rowing, which he actually participated in as a high schooler, during the interview.

In April 2016, when his son was admitted to Georgetown, Dameris sent $300,000 to Singer’s purported charity the Key Worldwide Foundation, according to prosecutors. Dameris will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, according to the U.S. attorney in Boston.

Prosecutors will recommend a sentence of time served, 21 months of home confinement, a fine of $95,000 and restitution, under the terms of his plea agreement.

“My client takes full responsibility for his actions,” Richard Crane, an attorney for Dameris, said in an emailed statement. “He is deeply apologetic to the hard-working student-athletes that may have been affected. He also is deeply remorseful for the pain and embarrassment his actions caused his son and family, who had no knowledge of his actions with the Key World Foundation.”

Dameris is the 54th person charged in connection with the case and the 25th parent to plead guilty.

Gordon Ernst became the tennis coach at Georgetown in 2006. He gave lessons to the Obama family when they were in the White House. In 2017, university officials became troubled about two applicants presented as tennis recruits, according to a university spokeswoman. The applicants were denied admission, Ernst was put on leave, and the university launched an investigation. He was later asked to resign.

Ernst has been accused by federal prosecutors of accepting bribes in return for recommending applicants for admission and faces charges in the case. He has pleaded not guilty, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston.

An attorney for Ernst did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Georgetown now requires more scrutiny of the credentials of recruits and verifies that those admitted join teams as expected.

University officials were not aware of any criminal wrongdoing until they were contacted by prosecutors in March 2019, according to school officials. They then launched a review of current students who might be involved.

Lori Loughlin et al. wearing a suit and tie: Lori Loughlin, front, and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, left, depart federal court in Boston after a 2019 hearing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. They entered guilty pleas Friday.  (AP Photo/Steven Senne) © Steven Senne/AP Lori Loughlin, front, and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, left, depart federal court in Boston after a 2019 hearing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. They entered guilty pleas Friday. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

On Friday, two of the most well-known defendants, Lori Loughlin and Mossimo Giannulli, entered guilty pleas in the case. Loughlin, an actress, and her husband, Giannulli, a designer, had maintained their innocence for more than a year, but on Thursday prosecutors announced that they had agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges and that Loughlin would serve two months and Giannulli would serve five months in prison.

The couple was scheduled to go to trial in October on charges that they paid $500,000 to ensure their daughters’ admission to the University of Southern California, falsely portraying them as crew recruits. Their daughters, who were not rowers, are no longer enrolled at USC.

Nick Anderson and Magda Jean-Louis contributed to this report.

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