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First Parent Pleads Guilty in College Admissions Scandal

Will more follow suit?


In federal court on Wednesday, one dad became the first of the 33 charged parents to plead guilty in the largest college admissions scandal ever prosecuted.

Like the other parents involved in the scam, Peter Jan Sartorio, a packaged-food entrepreneur from Menlo Park, Calif., was charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest-services mail fraud. The 53-year-old has been accused of paying a fake test proctor $15,000 in cash to alter his daughter’s ACT scores.

While it’s still unclear what Sartorio has pleaded guilty to, the terms of his deal could set the precedent for the remaining parents, among whom are Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman. Bloomberg reports that parents who don’t take pleas could be slapped with additional charges, like oncologist Gregory Colburn and wife Amy who turned down a deal and are now being charged with money laundering.

And anyone found guilty on the fraud counts could face up to 20 years in prison. While some experts argue that jail time is unlikely for first-time offenders, others, like New York criminal defense lawyer Matthew Galluzzo, say it’s a very real possibility that defendants should take seriously.

“You’ve already got a case that really illustrates the power of the privileged in the first place,” Galluzzo told the Associated Press. “If you don’t send them to jail then you’re going to be proving the point — which is that you can get away with anything if you have money.”

According to court documents, two other parents are allegedly in talks with prosecutors about potential plea deals: Jane Buckingham, who is accused of paying William “Rick” Singer (the mastermind behind the scam) $50,000 to improve her son’s ACT scores, and Devin Sloane, who reportedly paid a USC athletic director to create a fake water polo profile for his son to get him into the school.