News

Palo Alto couple to plead guilty in college admissions scandal

Gregory and Amy Colburn to accept prison deal

A Palo Alto couple charged with paying to cheat on their son's college entrance exam have agreed to plead guilty after a long-running saga that saw them facing a trial on Jan. 13, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Palo Alto residents Amy and Gregory Colburn, who faced charges related to the nationwide college admissions scam that became public in 2019, have reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Courtesy Photospin.

Dr. Gregory Colburn, 63, and Amy Colburn, 61, agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud. Plea hearings have not yet been scheduled by the court.

Under a plea deal, the Colburns will plead guilty to their roles in a pay-to-play scheme where college admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer received $25,000 to bribe test administrator Igor Dvorskiy and test proctor Mark Riddell to secretly correct the Colburns' son's SAT exam answers. The goal was to obtain a fraudulently inflated score to increase his chances of admission to a top-level college or university, according to federal prosecutors.

Singer, Dvorskiy and Riddell have pleaded guilty for their respective roles in the nationwide scheme that implicated more than 50 people.

The Colburns each accepted plea agreements that include two-month prison sentences, one year of supervised release, 100 hours of community service and a fine of $12,500, subject to a federal judge's approval.

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The Colburns will be the 36th and 37th parents in the college admissions case to either plead guilty or be convicted by a jury following trial, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Colburns had steadfastly pleaded not guilty until right before trial was set to begin. They faced a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, if convicted.

The Colburns join a group of Bay Area residents who have or will be sentenced in the nationwide scam. Other residents, who have taken plea deals and were sentenced to punishments ranging from fines with no jail time to a few months in prison with hefty fines, include former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer; Menlo Park residents Marjorie Klapper and Peter Jan Sartorio; Atherton residents Manuel Henriquez and Elizabeth Henriquez; Hillsborough resident Marci Palatella; former TPG Capital senior executive William McGlashan Jr., previously of Palo Alto; and Napa vintner Agustin Huneeus Jr.

Hillsborough residents Bruce and Davina Isackson have pleaded guilty but have not yet been sentenced.

Editor's note: This article incorrectly reported the status of Marci Palatella's case. She has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

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Sue Dremann
 
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Palo Alto couple to plead guilty in college admissions scandal

Gregory and Amy Colburn to accept prison deal

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 9:51 am
Updated: Thu, Dec 2, 2021, 3:18 pm

A Palo Alto couple charged with paying to cheat on their son's college entrance exam have agreed to plead guilty after a long-running saga that saw them facing a trial on Jan. 13, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Dr. Gregory Colburn, 63, and Amy Colburn, 61, agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud. Plea hearings have not yet been scheduled by the court.

Under a plea deal, the Colburns will plead guilty to their roles in a pay-to-play scheme where college admissions consultant William "Rick" Singer received $25,000 to bribe test administrator Igor Dvorskiy and test proctor Mark Riddell to secretly correct the Colburns' son's SAT exam answers. The goal was to obtain a fraudulently inflated score to increase his chances of admission to a top-level college or university, according to federal prosecutors.

Singer, Dvorskiy and Riddell have pleaded guilty for their respective roles in the nationwide scheme that implicated more than 50 people.

The Colburns each accepted plea agreements that include two-month prison sentences, one year of supervised release, 100 hours of community service and a fine of $12,500, subject to a federal judge's approval.

The Colburns will be the 36th and 37th parents in the college admissions case to either plead guilty or be convicted by a jury following trial, the U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement on Wednesday.

The Colburns had steadfastly pleaded not guilty until right before trial was set to begin. They faced a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater, if convicted.

The Colburns join a group of Bay Area residents who have or will be sentenced in the nationwide scam. Other residents, who have taken plea deals and were sentenced to punishments ranging from fines with no jail time to a few months in prison with hefty fines, include former Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer; Menlo Park residents Marjorie Klapper and Peter Jan Sartorio; Atherton residents Manuel Henriquez and Elizabeth Henriquez; Hillsborough resident Marci Palatella; former TPG Capital senior executive William McGlashan Jr., previously of Palo Alto; and Napa vintner Agustin Huneeus Jr.

Hillsborough residents Bruce and Davina Isackson have pleaded guilty but have not yet been sentenced.

Editor's note: This article incorrectly reported the status of Marci Palatella's case. She has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced. Palo Alto Online regrets the error.

Comments

Puffin
Registered user
College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2021 at 10:55 am
Puffin, College Terrace
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 10:55 am

I'm pretty sure none of them will go to prison.


TorreyaMan
Registered user
Palo Verde
on Dec 2, 2021 at 11:08 am
TorreyaMan, Palo Verde
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 11:08 am

I believe quite a few have gone to prison, albeit for relatively short terms such as a few months.


Consider Your Options.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 2, 2021 at 11:20 am
Consider Your Options. , Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 11:20 am

One's reputation as a person of self-disciplined ethical character is one's most valuable asset in life. Prison will be a lighter punishment than the aftermath of this highly publicized crime. This choice will haunt them the rest of their lives. As it should. They did the wrong thing because they could--without a thought for others or for the broken values they were teaching their son though their actions. Their place in society will be changed forever. What person of good character will want to associate with them ever again? What well-run business will want them in a leadership role? As they say, "Teach your children well."


Hulkamania
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2021 at 12:32 pm
Hulkamania, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 12:32 pm

"I'm pretty sure none of them will go to prison." Club Fed.

"What person of good character will want to associate with them ever again?" Money talks.


Rose
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2021 at 12:35 pm
Rose, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 12:35 pm

I know the Colburn family. This is a most unfortunate misstep and the publicity is so damaging.
They are a lovely family, talented and proper. I feel for them and know if they had it to do again, they would not have taken this path to higher education for their son.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Dec 2, 2021 at 1:00 pm
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 1:00 pm

If only realtors and the greed of property moguls could be investigated with their inflated out of balance capitalistic pricing in a “free market”. Example: No cap on bids over asking price for a property. Cheating in exchange the decency to live as a regular human in California goes way beyond test scores and getting into top universities. The sharks are going after the skinny bait.


III
Registered user
Midtown
on Dec 2, 2021 at 2:08 pm
III, Midtown
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 2:08 pm

Neither are "bad" people.
Their ego to have their child go to a school that
was not qualified for is a insult to my hard work
(and others) to get into a quality college.
I did 2 full years at Foothill College, Varsity Sports,
3.5 GPA at Foothill. Lot of effort to qualify to move on.
DO THE WORK and EARN IT...
Colburn parents denying for over 3 years what they did.
Again the audacity and ego they have...
Not "BAD" people.
Just think are better that we are I guess.
Roll on you Bears....
III


dontliveinCA
Registered user
another community
on Dec 2, 2021 at 3:12 pm
dontliveinCA, another community
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 3:12 pm

I always wonder if the kids knew about what their parents did. If they did know, shame on them! If they didn't know, how must it feel to think your parents thought you weren't smart enough to get into a good college! I know things have changed over the years, but gimme a break. No way I ever thought about trying to "help" my kids get into a good college....they did, but did so on their own. Feel sorry for the kids with parents who didn't respect them.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Dec 2, 2021 at 4:04 pm
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 4:04 pm

I feel sorry for these kids too. My guess would be the kids don't know what their parents are up to. Parents don't explain themselves to their children. Not only is this illegal and totally immoral, it's helicopter parenting on steroids. Cheating their way into college... and what will your child do when he/she can't compete academically? Drop or fail out? Parents like this are misguided. They have no faith in their child's ability, nor should every child go to college. Parent's need to accept this, regardless of their education level. You need to earn your way into college. "Legacy admissions" are unfair too, but they're not illegal.


Green Gables
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 2, 2021 at 6:48 pm
Green Gables, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 6:48 pm

Just goes to show that GREED has no end.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Dec 2, 2021 at 6:55 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 6:55 pm

Consequences are in order. Cheating other people.


Samuel L
Registered user
Meadow Park
on Dec 2, 2021 at 8:02 pm
Samuel L, Meadow Park
Registered user
on Dec 2, 2021 at 8:02 pm

III - Well said.
Rose - "They are a lovely family, talented and proper. I feel for them and know if they had it to do again, they would not have taken this path to higher education for their son." What does this even mean? "Proper"? "Talented"? No, they thought they could work the system because they had the money to do so. They did not feel that their son had the qualifications to get into a school that would enable them to still be considered "talented" and "proper" among their friends, so they paid to give it a better chance of happening. They believe that they have more right to that spot than someone who might actually have to work for it.

They deserve any and all damaging publicity.

I would bet that you are correct in that after going through this they would not take this path again, but they have already shown their true colors and they chose to try to game the system and got caught.

"Victimless" crimes are not necessarily victimless.


Chris G Zaharias
Registered user
another community
on Dec 3, 2021 at 9:44 am
Chris G Zaharias, another community
Registered user
on Dec 3, 2021 at 9:44 am

"Your Name" Poem -JG Howard

You got it from your Father,
it was all he had to give.
So it's yours to use and cherish
for as long as you may live.

If you loose the watch he gave you,
it can be replaced,
but a black mark on your name, Son,
can never be erased.

It was clean the day you took it...
and a worthy name to bear,
when he got it from his Father,
there was no dishonor there.

So make sure you guard it wisely,
after all is said and done,
you'll be glad the name is spotless,
when you give it to your child.


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 6, 2021 at 7:12 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Dec 6, 2021 at 7:12 pm

Didn’t the “kids” in all these Varsity Blues cases sign their own college apps? Didn’t they know where they were applying, what their essay stated, what extra-curriculars were listed or described? If they were age 18 or up (many of them, I would surely think), they should also be charged.
They may not have known their parents, for another example - not this family - made a massive donation to the Stanford sailing team (anyone would find odd, including the “kid,” if s/he had any logic), but they KNEW they weren’t sailors or rowers (USC), etc…or some of the other preposterous claims.


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