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First Bay Area parent to plead guilty in college admissions scam, others maintain innocence

Courtesy of Pixabay

A Menlo Park man accused of paying $15,000 to have a test proctor correct his daughter’s ACT answers intends to plead guilty, becoming the first Bay Area parent to do so in the $25 million college admissions scandal unveiled in March. U.S. Attorney’s Office and federal court documents filed on Wednesday reflect the development in the scandal, the largest ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice.

The scandal’s reveal came nearly two years after Peter Jan “P.J.” Sartorio’s daughter took the June 2017 ACT at the West Hollywood Test Center, scoring 27 out of 36 after some of her exam answers were allegedly corrected.

The purportedly fake ACT score placed Sartorio’s daughter in the 86th percentile among takers of the standardized test. In comparison, she scored 900 and 960 in two times taking the PSAT, landing her in the 42nd and 51st percentile, respectively, among takers of that exam.

Sartorio — who has been charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud — intends to plead guilty to an unknown charge U.S. prosecutors plan to file before his federal court hearing in Boston, MA on April 30. His attorneys, Peter Levitt and Nicholas Ramacher of Boston law firm Donnelly, Conroy and Gelhaar, filed a document revealing Sartorio’s intent.

Meanwhile, Palo Alto parents Gregory Colburn and his wife Amy maintain their innocence in the scandal, having entered not-guilty pleas according to the Wednesday court documents. They are accused of not only conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, but also of money laundering conspiracy.

The Colburns face a potential fine and maximum of 20 years in prison, after their son purportedly took the SAT with illegitimately extended time at the West Hollywood Test Center in March 2018. A proctor allegedly accepted $25,000 to help the couple cheat, nearly a year after Sartorio’s daughter took the ACT at the same center.

Sartorio and the Colburns are just three of 33 parents — including four Stanford affiliates and 11 Bay Area parents — to have been indicted thus far in the scandal.

Sartorio is former owner of Elena’s Food Specialties and president of Nate’s and P.J.’s Organics. He co-founded the latter company, which produces packaged burritos sold in South San Francisco through ADF Foods. Gregory serves as a radiation oncologist in San Jose.

Contact Holden Foreman at hs4man21 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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