A wealthy parent pleaded guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy count for paying bribes to get his daughter into Georgetown as a purported tennis recruit, making him the 26th parent to admit guilt in the “Varsity Blues” probe that’s ensnared Hollywood stars, titans of industry, and other luminaries, prosecutors said.
Robert Repella, 61, of Ambler, Penn., pleaded guilty in US District Court in Boston to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, and prosecutors are recommending a prison term of 10 months, plus a year of supervised release, a $40,000 fine, and restitution under terms of a plea deal, according to legal filings and US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office.
Sentencing is slated for Sept. 23. Repella remains free until then.
Court records allege Repella paid former Georgetown coach Gordon Ernst bribes totaling $50,000 in 2017 in exchange for Ernst designating Repella’s daughter as one of his tennis recruits, paving the way for the daughter’s acceptance into the fancy university in Washington, D.C.
Ernst faces related charges and has a status conference slated for July 15.
Lelling’s office said in a statement that Repella agreed to pay Ernst “more than $50,000 directly, in exchange for purporting to recruit his daughter to the Georgetown tennis team. Repella has also agreed to cooperate with the government’s investigation.”
In a statement released Tuesday by his lawyer, Repella expressed remorse.
“I sincerely regret and take full responsibility for my actions, which were mine and mine alone," Repella said. “My family, and most importantly, my daughter, knew nothing about this. A Georgetown University review determined that the academic and athletic qualifications my daughter submitted in her application were factual and truthful and she remains a student in good standing at Georgetown.”
While many parents charged in connection with the case paid bribes to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer to get their children classified as athletic recruits at selective schools or to facilitate cheating on the kids’ SAT and ACT exams, Singer was not involved in Repella’s deal with Ernst, prosecutors said.
Repella’s lawyer, Robert A. Fisher, said via phone Tuesday that his client’s daughter was in fact a “nationally ranked” high school tennis player and that her academic credentials were also legitimate. She played on the Georgetown tennis team for a time until she switched her major to nursing, Fisher said.
A biography for Repella’s daughter on the Georgetown women’s tennis website says she compiled a record of “1-7 in singles play” during the 2018-2019 season while “tallying an 0-5 record in doubles.” The bio says the daughter was named “most valuable player all four years” on her high school team and received the “2015 Kling Tennis Award for sportsmanship.” She wasn’t charged with any wrongdoing in the criminal case that ensnared her father.
Authorities have alleged previously that Ernst, over several years at Georgetown, collected bribes totaling $2.7 million in exchange for designating “at least 12 applicants as recruits for the Georgetown tennis team, including some who did not play tennis competitively, thereby facilitating their admission to Georgetown.”
In a statement in March 2019, Georgetown said it was cooperating with investigators and "deeply disappointed to learn that former Tennis Coach Gordon Ernst is alleged to have committed criminal acts against the University that constitute an unprecedented breach of trust.”
The statement said Ernst "has not coached our tennis team since December 2017, following an internal investigation that found he had violated University rules concerning admissions. Georgetown cooperated fully with the government’s investigation. We are reviewing the details of the indictment and will take appropriate action.”