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By pleading guilty in college-admissions scandal, Menlo Park father could face prison time

Peter Sartorio is one of four local parents so far to submit a guilty plea

A Menlo Park father charged with taking part in a nationwide college-admissions scam to get his daughter into a top-ranked university pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud on Wednesday morning (May 22), U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling said.

Peter Jan Sartorio, 53, appeared in Massachusetts Federal District Court on May 22 to enter his plea. He will be required to pay a $9,500 fine and could face a prison term of up to 20 years, although prosecutors are asking the court for a sentence at the low-end of the sentencing guidelines, which could be six months in jail or no time and supervised release for up to a year. A judge will make a final decision on the sentence.

Sartorio, a packaged-food entrepreneur, is one of 50 people charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office for taking part in a scam in which parents paid large sums in exchange for having an admissions-test proctor falsify their children's answers on the SAT and ACT exams by taking the test himself, giving the students the correct answers, or correcting their wrong answers before submitting the test.

Some parents also paid scam mastermind William "Rick" Singer, a college-admissions counselor who laundered the money through his nonprofit Key Worldwide Foundation, hundreds of thousands of dollars to bribe athletics coaches at top universities. Their children were admitted as team recruits in football, tennis and crew although they often had little or no experience in the sports.

Thirty-three parents are charged in the scandal, with 10 parents having Peninsula connections: two from Palo Alto, two from Menlo Park, two from Atherton, three from Hillsborough and one former Palo Alto resident now residing in Mill Valley.

Sartorio paid $15,000 to have a test proctor correct his daughter's answers on an ACT test in June 2017 at the West Hollywood Test Center, according to court documents. She received a score of 27 out of a possible 36, placing her in the 86th percentile. The ACT result was an improvement from the scores of 900 and 960 out of 1600 that she received in a PSAT, which placed her in the 42nd and 51 percentile, respectively, for her grade level.

Marjorie Klapper, a Menlo Park resident and co-owner of jewelry company M&M Bling in Palo Alto, is also scheduled to enter a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud on May 24. Klapper would pay a fine or penalty of $20,000 in addition to potentially serving jail time. Prosecutors will suggest a low-end sentence for her as well.

Of the other local residents charged in the scam several pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit honest services mail and wire fraud; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering in April: Atherton residents Elizabeth Henriquez and Manuel Henriquez, former CEO of venture capital and private equity firm Hercules Capital in Palo Alto; Mill Valley resident William McGlashan Jr., a former Palo Alto resident and founder and CEO of private equity firm TPG Growth and The Rise Fund; Marci Palatella of Healdsburg, a long-time donor to Sacred Heart Schools in Atherton and CEO of liquor distribution company Preservation Distillery.

Hillsborough resident Bruce Isackson, president of commercial real estate firm WP Investments in Woodside, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud; one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. His wife, Davina Isackson, pleaded guilty to one one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud, on May 1. Their sentencing is on July 31.

Dr. Gregory Colburn and Amy Colburn of Palo Alto initially pleaded not guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud; and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering but in April filed a motion to dismiss the case against them.

Former Stanford University sailing coach John VanderMoer pleaded guilty on March 12 to conspiracy to commit racketeering. He will be sentenced on June 12.

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