Probation, community service and a $9,500 fine for Menlo Park parent sentenced in college admissions scam

Peter Sartorio, first Midpeninsula parent to be sentenced in Operation Varsity Blues, escaped prison time

The first local parent to be sentenced in the nationwide college admissions scam received the lightest sentence handed down so far from a federal judge on Friday. He'll do no time in federal prison.

Peter Jan Sartorio, 53, a Menlo Park entrepreneur, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Indira Talwani to one year of probation, 350 hours of community service and to pay a $9,500 fine for his role in the scandal. He pleaded guilty on May 22 to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud. Prosecutors had asked for a one month prison sentence in addition to the one year of supervised release and a $9,500 fine. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison.

Federal prosecutors have charged more than 30 parents who paid large sums of money to college admissions counselor William "Rick" Singer and his associates, including some university athletics coaches. Singer arranged for a proxy to take or correct their children’s college-entrance exams. In some cases, fake sports resumes enabled their children to be admitted as team recruits for sports they never played.

Six other parents who faced the same charges have received prison sentences ranging from two weeks to five months. Hollywood actress Felicity Huffman, 56, received a two-week sentence and a $30,000 fine; 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 fines; 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 Agustin Huneeus Jr., 53, a Napa vintner, was sentenced to five months in prison and 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 month in prison, two years of supervised probation, 500 hours of community service and a $95,000 fine.

Sartorio conspired with Singer starting in spring 2017 to have his daughter's ACT exam corrected, without her knowledge, fraudulently inflating the score. He helped arrange for his daughter to receive extended time to take the exam at a test center in West Hollywood, which Singer controlled through the center’s administrator, Igor Dvorskiy, according to federal authorities.

Sartorio's daughter completed the exam in June 2017 without using the extra time she had been given, but examination proctor Mark Riddell corrected her answers. She received a score of 27 out of 36 on the exam, which placed her in the 86th percentile. The ACT result was an improvement from her previous PSAT scores of 900 and 960 out of 1600, which placed her in the 42nd and 51 percentile, respectively, for her grade level.

Sartorio paid Singer $15,000 in cash and structured the cash withdrawals in three increments over several days to avoid bank-reporting requirements, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

A packaged-food entrepreneur, Sartorio was charged in March in a sweeping set of indictments that implicated 33 parents, including 10 with ties to the Midpeninsula, who worked with Singer and his cohorts to scam the college admissions process at top higher education institutions, including Stanford University. Singer pleaded guilty to racketeering and money laundering conspiracy charges and obstruction of justice the $25 million scam on March 12. He has not yet been sentenced.

Former Stanford 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, deemed served, two years of supervised release with the first six months to be served in home detention and a $10,000 fine.

Other local parents have yet to be sentenced.

Marjorie Klapper, 50, of Menlo Park, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in May. She is scheduled for sentencing on Oct. 16.

Davina Isackson, 55, of Hillsborough pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, and 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 on May 1. Sentencing hearings for them have not been finalized.

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.

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 on April 29.

Court dates have not yet been set for the Colburn, Henriquez, McGlashan and Palatella cases.

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