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Ex-biotech CEO pleads guilty in U.S. college admissions scandal

BOSTON (Reuters) - A former biotech chief executive on Tuesday became the latest parent to plead guilty in the U.S. college admissions scandal by admitting he paid a tennis coach $50,000 to secure his daughter’s acceptance to Georgetown University.

Robert Repella, 61, appeared by videoconference before a federal judge in Boston to plead guilty after agreeing to cooperate with authorities in an ongoing investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

Prosecutors as part of a plea deal agreed to recommend that Repella, the former CEO of privately held Harmony Biosciences, be sentenced to 10 months in prison and a $40,000 fine.

He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Repella said his daughter had no knowledge of his actions and remains in “good standing” at Georgetown.

Repella is among 55 people charged in connection with a scheme in which wealthy parents conspired with a California college admissions consultant to fraudulently to secure their children’s admission to universities.

Consultant William “Rick” Singer pleaded guilty in March 2019 to facilitating cheating on college entrance exams and using bribery to secure the admission of students to colleges as fake athletic recruits.

The 38 parents include “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman, who received a 14-day prison sentence, and “Full House” star Lori Loughlin, who along with her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, pleaded guilty on Friday.

Several college sports coaches have also faced charges, including former Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst, who prosecutors said accepted bribes from Singer to facilitate the admission of students as purported tennis recruits.

Prosecutors said Repella, unlike other parents, did not participate in Singer’s scheme and directly paid Ernst in 2017.

Ernst has pleaded not guilty to charges including racketeering conspiracy. His lawyer did not respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang