Philip Esformes, the parent who paid a former coach to help ensure his son’s admission to Penn, was found guilty on 20 charges, including bribery, in Miami federal court on Friday.
Former Penn men’s basketball star and head coach Jerome Allen testified last month that he accepted $300,000 in bribes from Esformes in return for recruiting his son, Morris, to help him get into Penn.
Just a few days after Allen’s testimony, the FBI revealed admissions scandals that had occurred around the country, implicating coaches at the University of Southern California and Yale University, among other schools, for accepting bribes and falsifying records in order to get students admitted to the schools by pretending they were athletic recruits. Penn was not named in the initial Justice Department report.
A witness testifying during Esformes’ trial revealed that Esformes had sent $400,000 to the charity of William "Rick" Singer, the college consultant at the center of the national college admissions scandal. This came a few days after evidence surfaced that Esformes exchanged text messages with Singer about his son’s chances of getting admitted to Penn given his SAT score and about the date of an upcoming college-entrance exam in Arizona.
An exact date has not yet been set for sentencing for either Esformes or Allen, who could face 10 years in prison for his role in the bribery scheme, according to ESPN. The Miami Herald reported that it is likely Allen will be sentenced in the next several weeks, after pleading guilty on Oct. 5, 2018.
Allen also revealed in his testimony that Ira Bowman, who was then an assistant basketball coach at Penn, knew about the scheme. Bowman has since been suspended by Auburn University, where he currently holds an assistant coaching position on the Final Four team.
The jury did not reach a verdict on some of the most serious charges, including the main count of conspiracy to defraud Medicare. The Miami executive had been previously charged with 26 federal crimes. With over $1.3 billion in fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims, Esformes’ trial marked the largest health care fraud case ever charged by the federal government, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said in Friday’s Department of Justice press release.
When the news about Allen accepting bribes broke last July, Penn hired Chuck Smrt of The Compliance Group, an outside consultant, to oversee its internal investigation. Smrt looked into whether or not Allen had violated NCAA rules. The results of this investigation have yet to be released, leaving an open question about the possible ramifications for the Penn men’s basketball program and Penn Athletics as a whole.
“As a result of the Jerome Allen case, Penn Admissions and Penn Athletics have worked with an outside consultant to review and strengthen our processes for the recruitment of student-athletes and will continue to assess where we can improve our recruitment and evaluation processes,” Penn Athletics wrote in a statement.
Penn Athletics has not confirmed to The Daily Pennsylvanian if Chuck Smrt's investigation remains open or what the scope it covered was.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said in October that the recruitment of athletes was a joint effort between admissions and athletics, and that additional safeguards were needed to prevent problems in the future. Furda also expressed concern about overly protective safeguards and acknowledged that there would always be the potential for misconduct to slip through the cracks in the process. Last month, he further expressed that there might be room for admissions to improve their system.
"Penn Admissions and [the University's Division of Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics] have worked with an outside consultant to review and strengthen our processes for the recruitment of student athletes and, in light of the current charges, will again consider whether any further changes are called for in our recruitment and evaluation processes," Furda wrote in an email to the DP last month.
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