News

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, 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 his 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, either 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 no or little 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; and 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 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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Comments

6 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on May 22, 2019 at 6:46 pm

The title of this article is silly. He deserves prison time either way. By pleading guilty and helping the authorities convict the co-conspirators, he may reduce his prison time.


20 people like this
Posted by San Jose State Undergrad
a resident of another community
on May 22, 2019 at 6:53 pm

Being non-violent crimes, they will get off easy and it's back to business as usual.

The fines being imposed are a drop in the bucket given their overall wealth & no judge is going to sentence them to 20 years in prison.

Minimal jail time (6 months or less) and a year's probation...just watch.

Rich people reside in a different universe than the working class and the rulings are always designed in their favor. I despise these arrogant & falsely contrite people.


19 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2019 at 7:44 am

Nayeli is a registered user.

I wonder just how extensive this type of cheating has been over the last fifty years. There have always been rumors about who does and does not get into colleges and universities. I wonder if resulting lawsuits will reveal more about the admissions process that hasn't already been revealed by various "Affirmative Action" lawsuits.

I have a few siblings who are recent college graduates. They've stated how schools today extensively prep kids to perform well on the SAT and ACT tests. It makes me wonder just how such a test gauges knowledge or intelligence if many students have taken many hours prepping for the test (including having taken multiple sample tests).

I'm still relatively young; however, I never had any preparation for either test. In fact, I had to learn about when and where to take the test myself because no one else told me in my high school.

I went into those tests without having taken a single sample test. I never picked up a guide or book written to offer tips or tricks to help maximize my scores (whereas Amazon and bookstores offer many of them now). Thankfully, I did well above the national average (despite having learned English later during adolescence).

The sad thing is that many students who cheated (or who had parents who cheated for them) will have to live with that knowledge for the rest of their lives.

That said: As terrible and morally wrong as this is, is it really a felony? What laws are broken by it? Should taxpayers really pay for prison sentences for such individuals?

If it is a crime, why not levy hefty (and I mean VERY hefty) fines against the guilty? If a Stanford or elite education at other institutions is valued at a certain amount, then why not simply convict and then fine those individuals 4-10 times that amount.


40 people like this
Posted by Kneigh Knot
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on May 23, 2019 at 8:47 am

>> If it is a crime, why not levy hefty (and I mean VERY hefty) fines against the guilty?

Indeed, just as it's always been.

Let the poor rot in jail for their crimes, let wealthy folk buy their way out of jail.

Always was, always will be. Good call, Nay.

Not. And odd given the typical "tough on crime" and morality drivel.

...

>> is it really a felony? What laws are broken by it?

[Portion removed.]

"one count of mail fraud and honest services mail fraud"


5 people like this
Posted by Mike
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2019 at 1:55 pm

News articles identify Sartorio as the founder of PJ's Organics, a company specializing in frozen burritos.

Won’t be in my shopping cart...


54 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 23, 2019 at 3:43 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

Notice how conservatives are tough on crime as long as the crimes are perpetrated by poor people, especially from other countries. When a president they like fakes bone spurs to avoid military service or gets into a prestigious college, despite being a poor student, only because his father had used his wealth and influence to buy him admission, they remain silent. Predatory business practices make them only hail him as "smart". This thread is so full of hypocrisy it's actually hilarious.

"As terrible and morally wrong as this is, is it really a felony? What laws are broken by it? Should taxpayers really pay for prison sentences for such individuals?" Just hilarious..This great concern about taxpayers money miraculously disappears when poor people are incarcerated.


5 people like this
Posted by Redemption
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2019 at 3:59 pm

I am of the opinion that no purpose is served by making people like this serve jail time, and it's bad for families. It also makes people inclined to give lenient sentences. Where the punishment can serve redemption, rehabilitation, and help those who generally would have been harmed by this, that's the direction this should go.

I think the problem is that the law is more straightforward when it comes to jail time. Our "human" corporations have made it so it's impossible to use fines to truly punish crimes like this. The landmark case was a lawsuit against State Farm in which they had been only covering non-OEM replacement parts that were sometimes even dangerous or deadly. (And around the same time, some of their own corporate lawyers sued them for making them to illegal and unethical things. Once it was clear the company couldn't force them into keeping the documents secret, they settled and we all still have no idea what their evidence was.) Anyway, it made it really difficult to make fines that truly punish.

I think, on the other hand, expecting the person to give back over a much longer period of time rather than through a one-time fine or sentence, in a way that helps others, and only sending them to jail if they don't follow through, is probably a better and more positive use of our justice system for crimes like this.

What would "giving back" look like?


2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2019 at 6:00 pm

White collar crime is different from blue collar crime, but that doesn't mean that white collar crime should not be punished by jail/prison time. However, there is an argument that putting the white collar criminals separate from the blue collar population. I believe that there are such facilities where some politicians and Wall Street criminals are put. Trying to put some of these white collar criminals mixed together with hardened murderers is probably not a wise move.


Like this comment
Posted by Federal prison = A Country Club
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 23, 2019 at 6:03 pm

> I am of the opinion that no purpose is served by making people like this serve jail time,

Federal prisons (for non-violent money-related crimes) are a country club. Some have golf courses, offer weekend passes and gourmet kitchens.

Martha Stewart served time in one of those & it was more like a vacation.


4 people like this
Posted by Redemption
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2019 at 7:29 pm

@Federal,
But what purpose is served by it? If it's so cushy as you say, especially?

It's a serious thing to take a parent away from a family, even if they have done something wrong. I still feel very much like justice was NOT served by the Ellie Nessler case, they tore the family apart even worse than the child predator who raped her child, and the child suffered for it.

We need to get some practice at redemption, real redemption, when someone has done something wrong. Especially if they cooperate. I remember hearing a story about someone who had caused a fatal drunk driving accident, and just having to pay a small amount to the victim's family every month for years was more torment than putting the person in prison longer because he had to think about what he had done and couldn't forget it. In this situation, there must be a punishment that better fits the crime, doesn't have downstream negatives like innocent children (especially younger ones) being punished by having their parent taken away, and offers some kind of redemption for society and the perpetrator.

And then there is the issue of proportionality. Compared to those who caused the financial crisis, there should be some proportionality. How much time did how many of those crooks serve?

If there is a big likelihood of reforming someone, the punishment should be oriented to give back, not destroy. In this situation, it's about education - children are watching. We can show them that people do get punished and the punishment can fit the crime and result in positives for the community that was harmed.


2 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on May 23, 2019 at 11:09 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

@ mauricio - Why do you always mock people that you disagree with on PaloAltoOnline by accusing them of hypocrisy? Conservatives are hard on crime -- no matter if the criminal is a bike thief or Hillary Clinton.


6 people like this
Posted by Federal prison = A Country Club
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 24, 2019 at 9:26 am

@Redemption
>What would "giving back" look like?

OK. Some form of community service might suffice. How about...

(1) making the guy drive a school bus in the mornings for about 3 years? OR

(2) making the guy serve food in a school cafeteria for 5 years? OR

(3) making the guy work as a school custodian full-time for 1 year? OR

Fair enough? That way he still has time to spend time with his family and commiserate about REAL everyday life rather than relying on wealth & arrogance as a personal roadmap.


6 people like this
Posted by moral standards?
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on May 24, 2019 at 9:36 am

Nayeli: Why do you always mock people that you disagree with on PaloAltoOnline by accusing them of hypocrisy? Allow me to answer for him/her: "Because it's so easy?" Hypocrites abound in these forums: some that make claims that are not substantiated by facts, and those who change positions based on political viewpoints. For example, there's a poster who swore years ago that he couldn't support a candidate because of past transgressions with women or adultery, iirc. Then he comes out in favor of Trump. Wouldn't you call that a textbook case of hypocrisy, Nayeli?


24 people like this
Posted by moral standards?
a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto)
on May 24, 2019 at 10:00 am

Nayeli: Conservatives are hard on crime

There ya go: is this statement best described as hypocrisy? Or just a false claim?

Fox News has been talking up pardons for convicted war criminals for months, and Trump sounds like he's going to do it. Perhaps we no longer consider murderous war crimes to be "crime"?

So back to your question: it's easy to call out hypocrisy, when posters make absurd observations such as "Conservatives are hard on crime."

And that's not even listing all the Trump Criminals: "general" Flynn, Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort, etc.. Trump may actually pass Reagan as the most criminal administration ever, even more than Nixon.

"Conservatives are hard on crime."

Now that's so far beyond hypocrisy, it's almost satire.


22 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 24, 2019 at 10:38 am

mauricio is a registered user.

LOL. "As terrible and morally wrong as this is, is it really a felony? What laws are broken by it? " then comes the priceless "Conservatives are hard on crimes."

I personally couldn't make it up, it takes a Faux viewer to come up with this hilarity.

Speaking of Faux, perhaps the poster would like to inform us which crimes Hilary Clinton was charged with, tried and convicted of, having mentioned she and her fellow conservatives would be hard on both a car thief and Hilary Clinton.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 24, 2019 at 6:58 pm

Posted by Federal prison = A Country Club, a resident of Greenmeadow

>> Federal prisons (for non-violent money-related crimes) are a country club. Some have golf courses, offer weekend passes and gourmet kitchens.

You have a current source for this? Has there -ever- been a prison in the U.S. with a golf course? There used to be a couple of prisons in Canada that had such a reputation. Web Link

In the US, Eglin, AKA "Club Fed", was known as being significantly safer than some other prisons for white collar criminals. It was closed around 2006. Web Link

>> Martha Stewart served time in one of those & it was more like a vacation.

Did you ask Martha? Someone did. It is right here: Web Link

--

Asked if she found prison "a growth experience," Stewart said nothing good emerged from the five months she spent in 2004 at a minimum-security federal prison in West Virginia.

“That you can make lemons out of lemonade? What hurts you makes you stronger? No. None of those adages fit at all. It’s a horrible experience. Nothing is good about it, nothing,” she said.

--


35 people like this
Posted by Boo Hoo
a resident of another community
on May 24, 2019 at 7:36 pm

All of this sympathy for someone convicted of blatant, self-serving bribery is heart rendering.

Boo hoo...he mustn't go to a federal country club prison as it will scar him for life.

Boo hoo...he must be afforded redemption.

Boo hoo...if I have to go to prison, I can't spend time with my family. Chances are, he didn't anyway. Probably too busy making money.


4 people like this
Posted by palpable hypocrisy
a resident of Community Center
on May 25, 2019 at 4:01 pm

".. Trump may actually pass Reagan as the most criminal administration ever, even more than Nixon."

Reagan had over 100 indictments and convictions.

Pretty tough to beat Reagan since the Dems won't even do inquiries.


4 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 25, 2019 at 6:54 pm

The entire Trump administration is nothing but a crime syndicate. The Democrats are afraid of their own shadow. Had they actually investigated him and enforced their subpoena power, he would be impeached, and the information gleaned would force even this beyond awful US Senate to remove him, and then he would be tried as a common criminal and end up in prison for the rest of his life. As criminal as the Reagan administration had been, Reagan was was a choir boy compared to Trump.


Like this comment
Posted by The Greatest POTUS Since Lincoln
a resident of Evergreen Park
on May 25, 2019 at 7:21 pm

Hmmm...Jon Voight recently declared that Donald Trump is the greatest US President since Abraham Lincoln.

How did he arrive at that?


4 people like this
Posted by Trump = Lincoln
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2019 at 12:32 pm

^^^ "How did he arrive at that?"

Perhaps the poster is referencing the highly hidden conspiracy behind Lincoln's presidency, the Civil War & his assassination.

Lincoln was elected president by northern interests who wanted to capitalize off a trade war with the south. It had nothing to do with abolishing slavery.

Lincoln initiated an economic war forcing the south to secede which was then followed by the Civil War.

After the South was defeated, Lincoln's assassination was 'faked' and he lived his remaining years in South America because he was against both Reconstruction & the Radical Republicans + he was not overly concerned about the plight of the freed slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation was just PR.

Like Lee Harvey Oswald, John Wilkes Booth was brought in as a dupe to foil the actual facts pertaining to Lincoln's assassination. Like the Warren Commission Report on the JFK assassination, there was a cover-up t fool the American public.

Donald Trump is also fighting a trade war (with China) but he is more constrained in his 'sell-out' to US businesses than Lincoln was to the north following his election in 1860. Donald Trump despite his flaws, carries his own weight and only uses those who are of advantage to his motives.

He is not a complete sell-out because he is too self-centered & narcissistic. This is an ironic safety valve for Americans but most don't realize it because they are easily brainwashed by both FOX and CNN.


4 people like this
Posted by Hatfields and McCoys
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 26, 2019 at 1:50 pm

>>> an economic war forcing the south to secede

They're-writing history. The southern traitors seceded for slavery. Look at the South Carolina secession documents - they directly mention slavery multiple times. Not some secret tin foil conspiracy theory. Racists often feel they needn't bother with 'clever'.

Same thing today. "Both sides" - amiright?


4 people like this
Posted by Trump = Lincoln
a resident of another community
on May 26, 2019 at 2:22 pm

@Hatfields and McCoys

You are correct from the standpoint that the South had an economic edge over the North due to the predominance of slavery as its work force.

The North wanted to balance the economic scales by eliminating or reducing slavery even though the South was primarily in the cotton growing industry.

Like most Republican politicians, Lincoln was but a mere pawn of business interests...in this case, northern manufacturing. He could have cared less about black people & even suggested shipping them out of the country after the conclusion of the war.

Racism was certainly a part of the big picture from both sides of the coin. The South exploited the blacks while the white Northerner wanted nothing to do with them.


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2019 at 2:50 pm

Posted by Trump = Lincoln, a resident of another community

>> Lincoln was elected president by northern interests who wanted to capitalize off a trade war with the south. It had nothing to do with abolishing slavery.

I'm sorry, I can't tell from your posted text if you are serious, but, a true expert on the subject, Alexander H. Stephens, VP of the Confederacy, former Whig who knew Abraham Lincoln, and, to some degree always a unionist, even as VP of the Confederacy, stated the case very clearly in his Cornerstone speech at the beginning of the war. The war was indeed about slavery:

Web Link


8 people like this
Posted by Hatfields and McCoys
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 26, 2019 at 3:15 pm

>>> You are correct from the standpoint that the South had an economic edge over the North due to the predominance of slavery as its work force.

No. Wrong. Falsehood. LYING.

I stated no such thing. I said: "They're-writing history. The southern traitors seceded for slavery."

I then joked: "Both sides." You then pulled a Trumpian "both sides" with your inane: "Racism was certainly a part of the big picture from both sides of the coin"

I repeat: "They're-writing history. The southern traitors seceded for slavery." Quit the "both-siderism" and re-writing of fact.

ie.. stop lying about history. No matter how you couch it, you are showing a very ugly facet.


2 people like this
Posted by Actually Lincoln = Trump
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2019 at 3:25 pm

> The war was indeed about slavery:

Not because slavery was considered inhumane (by northerners) but because of its economic ramifications. The South was considerably wealthier than the North & the northerners resented this imbalance.

So yes, slavery was the issue BUT it had nothing to do with compassion for the slaves. It was all about MONEY.

The abolitionists (i.e. John Brown) were considered a lunatic fringe by the north & the 'progressive' Radical Republicans (i.e. Thaddeus Stevens et al) only assumed real power after the war was won by the North.

As the Trump=Lincoln poster mentioned, Lincoln didn't care about the slaves. He was more focused on gluing the Union back together & had even suggested shipping all of the freed slaves to Liberia.

So in a way, Trump is kind of like Lincoln as he wants to protect the economic stability of the Union without having to kow-tow to other geographic regions like China or provide costly havens for displaced Latin Americans arriving from Mexico & Central America.

Yes. Slavery was the issue but it had nothing to do with any acknowledgement of racism being wrong by either side.

Ever been to the Deep South? Ever been to Boston? Different geography but equally as racist in certain areas. The last time i checked, JFK had never invited Martin Luther King to Hyannis Port...gee, I wonder why?

Meanwhile the Boston Red Sox were the last MLB to integrate (12 YEARS after Jackie Robinson) and during the 1970s through 1980s, Red Sox fans were infamously noted for verbally abusing HOFer Jim Rice with the 'N' word.

Bottom line...North VS South = no difference when it comes to racism & while slavery was the key issue of the Civil War, Lincoln had absolutely no interest in the well-being of black people & yes, his Emancipation Proclamation was simply a gloating speech over the South and a PR move to 'rub it in'.

Trump leaves a lot to be desired in a POTUS but I can see where Jon Voight compares him to Abrahim Lincoln. Both Lincoln & Trump are protectionists.


8 people like this
Posted by mauricio
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on May 26, 2019 at 4:07 pm

mauricio is a registered user.

LOL. Comparing Trump ot Lincoln is one of those mind boggling insane statements that makes one suspect we live in an upside world acelerating into oblivion. It 's on par with Kyrie Irving's statement that the world is flat. The head of state most comparable to Tump would be Idi Amin.


Like this comment
Posted by Actually Lincoln = Trump
a resident of Barron Park
on May 26, 2019 at 4:24 pm

"Comparing Trump to Lincoln is one of those mind boggling insane statements that makes one suspect we live in an upside world accelerating into oblivion."

Many have compared the two presidents & perhaps more will as time goes on. Noted parallels have already been conveyed in both the press & in fashion.

Lincoln did not achieve greatness until his second term.

Web Link

Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 26, 2019 at 4:38 pm

Posted by Actually Lincoln = Trump, a resident of Barron Park

>> > The war was indeed about slavery:

>> Not because slavery was considered inhumane (by northerners) but because of its economic ramifications. The South was considerably wealthier than the North & the northerners resented this imbalance.

"LOL". The above sentence is the most compact mis-representation of the historical reality of slavery that I have ever seen. You've condensed an entire myopic worldview into a single revelatory sentence.

If you would like to read some real history, try this easy-to-read biography that focuses on the issues of the time and the people, including Seward, Chase, and of course, Lincoln:

Web Link

You can find a much lengthier (I haven't read it all) biography here, -online- (!), with a large number of references:

Web Link

For example, on the question of the reasons for secession, we find numerous explanations in Chapter 17:

"Congressman Keitt declared at his state’s secession convention: “I am willing in this issue to rest disunion upon the question of slavery. It is the great central point from which we are now seceding.” [58]


16 people like this
Posted by Hatfields and McCoys
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 26, 2019 at 4:42 pm

>>> The South was considerably wealthier than the North & the northerners resented this imbalance.

STOP. You're fooling no one but yourself.

The north RESENTED?!? So wrong. The north didn't secede.

The racist traitors in the south seceded, documenting slavery as their reason. You keep trying to 'both-sides' it, but that's a racist, trumpian deflection.

Defending racism by re-writing history is beyond pathetic to the point of evil. Trying to deflect to some baseball team decades later is beyond ridiculous and again, fools no one.

But yourself. We know what you are doing, what you are saying.


2 people like this
Posted by Hatfields and McCoys
a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 26, 2019 at 4:44 pm

@anon - you're wasting your time, he knows exactly what he is saying. He doesn't want to read your links and acknowledge fact. He rather 'both-sides hate and racism.


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