A former biotech executive from Ambler on Monday became the latest parent to plead guilty in a college admissions scandal that has laid bare the corrupting influence wealth has had on admissions to some of the nation’s most elite colleges.
Robert Repella, the former CEO of Plymouth Meeting-based Harmony Biosciences, admitted to a federal judge in Boston that he paid $50,000 in 2017 to the head coach of Georgetown University’s tennis team to have his daughter designated as a recruit, easing her entry into the school.
The coach, Gordon Ernst, was asked to resign in 2017 over questions surrounding his recruiting practices and was charged last year with accepting bribes in return for recommending applicants for admission.
During a hearing Monday via video conference, Repella told U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs he took “full responsibility” for his crime and acted alone. “My family, and most importantly, my daughter, knew nothing about this,” the 61-year-old said.
His lawyer, Robert A. Fisher, said later in an interview that Repella’s daughter, unlike other students who benefited from the bribery scandal and never even played the sports they were supposedly recruited for, had been a nationally ranked high school tennis player.
She joined Georgetown’s team in her freshman year, Fisher said, and only quit the team after switching to a demanding major. A university investigation found that despite the circumstances surrounding her admission, she met the school’s rigorous academic and athletic standards and allowed her to remain enrolled.
“His daughter knew nothing about this. His wife didn’t either,” Fisher said. “Nobody knew except him and Gordy.”
Many of the 26 parents who have been charged relied on William “Rick” Singer, a California-based college admissions consultant whom prosecutors have described as the mastermind of a scheme to fraudulently get the children of wealthy parents into competitive colleges by inflating their resumés and passing them off as elite athletes, often when they had no connection to the sports for which they were supposedly being recruited.
According to prosecutors, Repella did not deal with Singer and conducted his transactions directly with Ernst.
Repella has agreed to cooperate with the ongoing investigation against the tennis coach in exchange for a recommendation from prosecutors that he be sentenced to no more than 10 months in prison and one year of probation, according to court filings. He could also have to pay financial penalties, including a $40,000 fine, restitution, and forfeiture at a sentencing hearing scheduled for September.