The latest parent to be sentenced in the U.S. college-admissions scandal is going to prison, even if the guy who ran the scam is a master manipulator.

U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani on Thursday brushed aside Stephen Semprevivo’s claim to being a victim of the racket, sentencing the Los Angeles businessman to four months behind bars for paying $400,000 to get his son into Georgetown University as a fake tennis recruit.

Semprevivo, 53, also got a fine of $100,000, two years of supervised release and 500 hours of community service. He had asked for probation. Prosecutors wanted 13 months.

Semprevivo’s lawyers argued the sales-outsourcing executive led a law-abiding life until Rick Singer, the admitted mastermind of the biggest college-admissions scam the U.S. has ever prosecuted, ambled into it. Semprevivo hired both a psychologist and a criminologist to describe to the court emotional issues they said made him prey to Singer, as well as other mitigating factors.

“For Singer, parents like Stephen Semprevivo were a perfect target,” Semprevivo’s lawyer David Kenner said in a pre-sentencing memo. His client hired Singer for “legitimate” college advice, but the consultant “became more manipulative, purposeful and focused in his exploitation,” Kenner said.

“I am fully responsible,” Semprevivo told the judge on Thursday before she pronounced his sentence. He said, “This is the first and only crime, and certainly the last crime, I will commit.”

The memo had a different emphasis. In it, Kenner said Semprevivo’s son, Adam, had “sterling” grades and test scores and had considered applying to Vanderbilt University. Instead, Singer steered him to Georgetown, only to argue later that the school was out of the boy’s reach, Semprevivo told the criminologist. It was at Georgetown that Singer had a crooked coach in place at the time, prosecutors say. The coach, Gordon Ernst, has pleaded not guilty.

“Having created a problem, Singer, according to his ‘playbook,’ proposed a solution,” that Semprevivo make a $400,000 donation to his charity that he said would benefit Georgetown’s tennis program, Kenner said.

Such arguments suggest a legal strategy starting to emerge among the parents who admitted to cheating their kids’ way into college: Blame Rick Singer.

The corrupt admissions strategist, who ushered the children of wealthy clients through what he called the “side door” to elite universities, came to them highly recommended, won their trust with his confidence and connections, then played on their insecurities and ultimately wielded a Svengali-like power over them, they say.

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