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Palo Alto couple charged in college admissions scandal denies allegations of money laundering

Gregory and Amy Colburn accused of filing payment to boost SAT scores as charitable donation

Gregory Colburn and his wife, Amy Colburn, “completely deny” federal allegations that they paid William Rick Singer to have a proxy take the SAT for their son, the couple’s attorneys told The Daily in an email. The Palo Alto couple was charged with money laundering and indicted on Tuesday.

The indictment levies money laundering charges on the Colburns on top of prior charges of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. It is the first time money laundering charges have been brought against any of the 33 parents accused of paying bribes to Singer, ringleader of the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The indictment claims that in December 2017, Gregory wired $24,443.50 worth of stock and a check for $547.45 as a “charitable donation” to the The Key Worldwide Foundation (KWF), Singer’s sham charity, to allow a proxy to take the SAT for the Colburns’ son in West Hollywood, Los Angeles.

The Colburns maintain that their son took the exam “with no assistance” and that they were “unaware that his test was altered in any way,” wrote their attorneys, Patric Hooper and David Schumacher.

Hooper suggested to The Mercury News that the indictment was a response to the Colburns’ demand for a preliminary hearing on the initial complaint. The preliminary hearing would have required prosecutors to present evidence against them in court within three weeks, while a federal indictment does not have this requirement.

The indictment alleges that KWF issued a letter to Gregory on or about Dec. 29, 2017 indicating that “no goods or services were exchanged” for his $25,000 payment.

Singer then allegedly paid $20,000 to Igor Dvorsky, who administered the SAT at the West Hollywood test center in March 2018, to facilitate purported proctor Mark Ridell’s cheating on behalf of the Colburns’ son. Ridell corrected the Colburns’ son’s answers, earning a score of 1190 out of 1600 on his behalf. Singer instructed Ridell not to obtain too high a score so that the Colburns’ son would not realize his exam had been altered.

While the Colburns claim to have no knowledge of the cheating and their attorneys assert that their “lives have been turned completely upside down by these false accusations,” the indictment includes transcripts from phone conversations between the Colburns and Singer regarding the payment.

“We both know that, Mark [Ridell] took the test for [your son],” Singer said on the call. “But I just wanted to make sure that … we’re all on the same page.”

“Right. It was to help underserved kids,” Gregory responded, referring to the payment. “Got it.”

Hooper reportedly told the Wall Street Journal that the Colburns were surprised by what Singer said to them over the phone, and that they “were saying whatever they could to wind down the call.”

Ridell is also accused of acting as a proxy for the son of David Sidoo, the first parent in the scandal to be charged by a federal grand jury. Gregory and Amy are the second and third. Ridell agreed to plead guilty to the charges; Sidoo pleaded not guilty.

Gregory is a radiation oncologist in San Jose. He will be taking a leave of absence “so he can devote his full attention to defending his wife and himself against the charges,” their attorneys wrote, adding that they will be “seeking a speedy trial to clear their names.”

Gregory and Amy were scheduled to appear in court on Friday, but were released on bond for $500,000 each.

“We’re going to fight like crazy,” Hooper told The Mercury News. “We think he [and his wife] are innocent.”

Contact Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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