A 50-year-old entrepreneur from Menlo Park who fraudulently claimed her son was black or Latino on college applications was ordered to pay a $9,500 fine and spend three weeks in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boston announced Wednesday.
Marjorie Klapper also received one year of supervised release and must perform 250 hours of community service, U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani ordered during a hearing Wednesday afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts. Klapper pleaded guilty on May 24 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. She is the second Midpeninsula resident to be sentenced for taking part in the nationwide Operation Varsity Blues scam, in which 52 people have been indicted.
Federal authorities have brought charges against 33 parents, who under the direction of college admissions counselor William "Rick" Singer, bribed college admissions test proctors to correct their children's exams or paid for the creation of false resumes purporting athletic achievements so the applicants could be accepted into top colleges and universities under recruiting programs. Some coaches also received bribes.
Federal prosecutors were disappointed in Klapper's sentence. They had asked for four months in prison, one year of supervised release and a $20,000 fine.
"This defendant paid $15,000 to arrange for her son to cheat on the ACT and then falsely claimed on his college applications that he was Black or Latino. Ms. Klapper thereby not only corrupted the standardized testing system, but also specifically victimized the real minority applicants already fighting for admission to elite schools. We respectfully disagree that a three-week sentence is a sufficient sanction for this misconduct," U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said in a press release.
Beginning in 2017, Klapper, co-owner of jewelry business M&M Bling, conspired with Singer and others to have her son's ACT exam corrected and score inflated. She helped secure extended time for her son to take the ACT and to take the exam at a test center in West Hollywood that Singer controlled through the center's administrator, Igor Dvorskiy, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Klapper's son completed the exam on Oct. 28, 2017. Co-conspirator and test proctor Mark Riddell corrected his answers that resulted in a score of 30 out of 36. In November 2017, Klapper made a purported charitable donation of $15,000 to Singer's sham charity, The Key Worldwide Foundation, to pay for the fraud, prosecutors said.
Klapper also conspired with Singer to falsify her son's college applications by claiming that he was either of African American or Hispanic/Latino origin to improve his odds of admission by claiming minority status, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. She also falsely represented that neither she nor her husband had attended college in order to improve her son's college prospects.
The Menlo Park woman originally faced 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or double the amount gained or lost, according to federal prosecutors.
Seven other parents who faced the same charges have received prison sentences ranging from two weeks to five months. Peter Jan Sartorio, 53, also of Menlo Park, was sentenced on Oct. 11 by Talwani to one year of probation, 250 hours of community service and a $9,500 fine for his role in the scandal. Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman, 56, received a two-week sentence and a $30,000 fine (media reports indicate she began serving her sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution, a low-security facility in Dublin, on Tuesday); Gregory Abbott, 68, a New York beverage business executive, and Marcia Abbott, 59, a former fashion editor at Family Circle, each received a one-month prison sentence and $45,000 fine; and Gordon Caplan, 53, a Connecticut attorney, received a month in prison and a $50,000 fine. All of their sentences include a year of supervised release and 250 hours of community service.
The heftiest sentences thus far have gone to Napa vintner Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, who was sentenced to five months in prison and issued a $100,000 fine, two years of supervised release and 500 hours of community service; and Los Angeles business executive Devin Sloane, 53, who received four months in prison, two years of supervised probation, 500 hours of community service and a $95,000 fine.
Former Stanford University head sailing coach John Vandemoer, 41, of Palo Alto, pleaded guilty on March 12 to conspiracy to commit racketeering after accepting $800,000 in bribes for athletics programs to place students on the sailing team. He was sentenced to one day of incarceration, which he already served prior to the court hearing; two years of supervised release, with the first six months to be served in home detention; and a $10,000 fine.
The cases of other local parents continue to make their way through the federal court system.
Davina Isackson, 55, of Hillsborough, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Her husband, Bruce Isackson, 61, pleaded guilty to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the United States. The couple's pleas were entered on May 1; sentencing hearings for them have not been scheduled.
Palo Alto residents Amy Colburn, 59, and Gregory Colburn, 61, are fighting the indictments and filed motions to dismiss the cases against them on April 15. They are each charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
Atherton residents Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez, both 56, have each pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
On April 29, Mill Valley resident William McGlashan, 55, formerly of Palo Alto, and Marci Palatella, 56, of Hillsborough, also pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud and money laundering conspiracy.
McGlashan, Palatella, the Colburns and the Henriquezes are all scheduled for status conferences in court on Jan. 17.