Four Midpeninsula residents are among the 14 people who agreed to plead guilty in the national college-admissions bribery scandal, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling announced on Monday. The group is made up of 13 parents and one athletics coach, about a quarter of the total 50 people have been charged in the scheme.
The agreements, which must be presented before a judge no later than April 30, could lead to incarceration and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for the parents' roles in bribing college-entrance-exam officiants and college admissions and athletics staff to improve their children's chances of gaining entrance to top-tier universities. The officials passed false SAT and ACT test results and created bogus profiles for the students in sports they had minimal to no experience in, under the direction of Newport Beach resident William "Rick" Singer. He ran a college-admissions coaching business and funneled the bribes through a fake nonprofit organization he founded, the Key Worldwide Foundation, according to federal prosecutors.
The 13 parents include Menlo Park residents Marjorie Klapper, 50, and Peter Jan Sartorio, 53; Hillsborough residents Bruce Isackson, 61, and Davina Isackson, 55; and actress Felicity Huffman, 56. They each intend to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. In addition, Bruce Isackson plans to plead guilty to one count each of money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to defraud the IRS.
Klapper paid Singer $15,000 to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme for her son, according to court documents.
The Isacksons agreed to pay Singer a total of $600,000 to have both of their daughters listed as recruited college athletes and to have false test scores for the younger of the two daughters. The couple also paid less on their federal income taxes by deducting the bribe payments as purported charitable contributions, according to court documents.
Sartorio paid $15,000 to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme for his daughter, according to court documents filed last Wednesday.
The penalties could be severe. There is no guarantee that the parents won't receive as much as 20 years in prison for their roles in the scandal. Mail fraud and honest services mail fraud carries a maximum sentence of 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. Conspiracy to commit money laundering has a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the money laundering. Conspiracy to defraud the United States or IRS carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
The government will ask for incarceration at the low end of the U.S. sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors, prosecutors noted in each agreement. The decision is up to the judge.
In addition, all of the defendants would receive 12 months of supervised release; a special assessment of $100; restitution to be determined by the court; and forfeiture of any assets seized during investigation and prosecution.
Under their respective agreements, Klapper would pay a fine or penalty of $20,000; Sartorio would pay a $9,500 fine; Davina Isackson would pay a fine or penalty of $100,000; and Bruce Isackson would pay $150,000. The Isacksons have also agreed to cooperate with the government and the IRS and to correct any tax returns and pay delinquent taxes and fees. They have signed separate cooperation agreements with the government in any investigations, grand jury inquiries or court proceedings.
Huffman, 56, of Los Angeles, agreed to the same conditions as the other defendants in addition to a $20,000 fine. She originally paid $15,000 to participate in the college entrance exam cheating scheme for her oldest daughter. University of Texas at Austin coach Michael Center, 54, of Austin, Texas, plans to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud for labeling a child as a tennis recruit.
Plea and sentencing hearings have not yet been set. Attorneys for the local defendants couldn't immediately be reached.
Other local defendants in the case include:
Dr. Gregory and Amy Colburn of Palo Alto, who pleaded not guilty last Wednesday; Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez of Atherton; Marci Palatella of Hillsborough; and William McGlashan of Mill Valley, who have made initial appearances in federal court in Boston but have not yet entered pleas.
• Listen to the March 15 episode of "Behind the Headlines," where Palo Alto college adviser John Raftrey discusses the implications of the nationwide admissions bribery scandal, now available on our YouTube channel and podcast.