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Former tech CEO gets home confinement for admissions bribe

BOSTON — A former tech executive was sentenced Monday to one year of home confinement for paying $300,000 to bribe his son's way into Georgetown University as a tennis recruit, even though the son did not play tennis.

Peter Dameris, of Pacific Palisades, California, appeared before a Boston federal court judge via video because of the coronavirus pandemic. He pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

His sentence also included a $95,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of 21 months of home confinement along with a fine of $95,000. Dameris' lawyers asked for probation only, saying he deserved leniency to help care for a son who has leukemia.

U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns said he took the medical considerations into account in the sentence, along with an “outpouring” of support from friends and family members who submitted letters to the court.

“I really feel for your family, and I understand your anguish,” Stearns told Dameris. “You have lived a good life, and I believe you deserve some reward for that.”

Speaking through tears, Dameris said he regrets his involvement in the scheme and takes full responsibility.

“I am enormously remorseful for the actions that have brought me before you today,” Dameris said. “My life’s sentence is, I am burdened with the memories of what I've done that has hurt my family and others.”

Dameris, the former CEO of technology services company ASGN Inc., joins dozens of parents and college coaches who have pleaded guilty in a sweeping nationwide college admissions scandal.

Prosecutors say Dameris agreed in 2015 to funnel the money through a sham charity set up by Rick Singer, the alleged ringleader of the scheme. Singer steered roughly half of the money to Georgetown's former tennis coach, Gordon Ernst, who helped get Dameris' son accepted as a tennis recruit, prosecutors say.

In court filings, Dameris apologized for influencing the admissions system but said he believed the money was going to Georgetown's athletic programs. Prosecutors say there's no evidence Dameris knew of any personal bribes to Ernst.

Singer pleaded guilty and is co-operating with the government’s investigation into what authorities have dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, a series of indictments that have rocked the worlds of higher education, sports and entertainment.

Ernst, who is accused of accepting $2.7 million in bribes, has pleaded not guilty. He resigned from Georgetown in 2018.

Dameris acknowledged that he later considered the scheme for his other son but did not follow through with it. Neither son was involved, and his son at Georgetown was allowed to stay and graduate.

More than 50 parents, coaches and others have been charged since investigators revealed the scheme last year. The parents paid hefty bribes to get their children into top universities with bogus test scores or fake athletic credentials, authorities say.

Prosecutors have pushed for prison time for most parents accused in the scheme, but they said home confinement was warranted in Dameris’ case because of his “unusual and compelling personal circumstances.”

Others who have pleaded guilty include “Full House” actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli. Loughlin was sentenced to two months in prison as part of plea a deal, and Giannulli was ordered to five months. The couple admitted to paying half a million dollars in bribes to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as rowing recruits.

“Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, also pleaded guilty for paying $15,000 to have someone rig her daughter’s college entrance exam. Huffman was sentenced to two weeks in prison.

Collin Binkley, The Associated Press

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