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An FBI agent unveiled in an affidavit Tuesday that a number of parents, many of whom reside in the Bay Area, are charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in a federal investigation into college admissions bribery at schools across the country.
This scheme worked in two different ways. In one version of the scheme, a man identified in the documents as Cooperating Witness 1 (CW-1) worked to “bribe college entrance exam administrators to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams.”
In the second version of the scheme, CW-1 bribed “varsity coaches and administrators at elite universities to designate certain applicants as recruited athletes or as other favored candidates.”
The parents of applicants and CW-1 worked together to create fake profiles for their kids, either embellishing their athletic accomplishments or, in many cases, outright inventing them.
Media outlets have indicated the man in charge of the scheme was William “Rick” Singer, a founder of The Key and Key Worldwide Foundation. Singer, of Newport Beach, California, pleaded guilty in Boston federal court Tuesday to charges including racketeering conspiracy and obstruction of justice.
Below are a list of the Bay Area parents and their alleged crimes. All information comes from this court affidavit unless otherwise indicated.
Gregory and Amy Colburn
Palo Alto residents
Gregory is listed as a physician in the Bay Area; no occupation is given for his wife Amy.
The affidavit alleges the Colburns gave $25,000 to KWF in order to facilitate cheating on their son’s SAT. When CW-1, by then cooperating with the Department of Justice investigation, called the Colburns to inform them the IRS was auditing KWF, the affidavit indicates Gregory Colburn agreed to “align” his story with CW-1.
“So what I’m telling the IRS is that — I’m not — well, let me say this. What I’m not telling the IRS is that [your son] — that [CW-2] [inaudible] took the test for [your son] at [the West Hollywood Test Center],” CW-1 says, according to the transcript.
“No, I got that. Yes. No, I got that,” Colburn allegedly replies.
“All right. But what I am telling them is that your payment essentially went to our foundation to help underserved kids,” CW-1 continues.
“Right. Okay,” Colburn agrees.
Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez
Manuel Henriquez is listed as the founder, chairman, CEO of a “publicly traded specialty finance company based in Palo Alto.”
According to the affidavit, the Henriquezes participated in college entrance exam cheating schemes on four separate occasions for their two daughters. Part of this scheme was bribing Gordon Ernst, the head tennis coach at Georgetown “to designate their older daughter as a tennis recruit in order to facilitate her admission to Georgetown,” the affidavit reads.
In fall 2015, the affidavit says CW-2 “sat side-by-side with the daughter during the [SAT] and provided her with answers to the exam questions.” Afterward he “gloated” with Elizabeth and her daughter “about the fact that they had cheated and gotten away with it.”
The affidavit says the daughter’s Georgetown application falsely indicated she played “club tennis” 20 hours per week in high school and had a top-50 ranking in the United States Tennis Association. According to USTA records, she did not play any USTA tournaments as a high schooler and “at her best, she appears to have ranked 207th in Northern California in the under-12 girls division, with an overall win/loss record of 2-8.”
Agustin Huneeus Jr.
San Francisco resident
Agustin Huneeus Jr. is listed as an “owner of vineyards in Napa.” According to the Huneeus Wines website, the founders’ “son Agustin F. Huneeus has worked in the family business for more than 20 years and extends the family tradition as head of the wine portfolio in the US and abroad.”
According to the affidavit, Huneeus conspired to bribe USC senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and women’s water polo coach Jovan Vavic to recruit his daughter as a water polo player. She did not play water polo. CW-1 said he created a fake athletic profile for the teen, calling her the “Team MVP 2017” and using a photo of a water polo player in action that wasn’t her.
In phone calls, the affidavit says Huneeus acknowledged “that his daughter was not qualified to be a USC water polo recruit, and expressed concern about ‘this thing blow[ing] up in my face.”
“In the same call, Huneeus also sought reassurance that his daughter would not actually have to join the USC water polo team, despite being admitted as a water polo recruit,” the affidavit continues.
In addition, CW-2 said he corrected the daughter’s SAT exam after she finished the test at the West Hollywood test center. Her falsified score was allegedly a 1380 out of 1600, putting her in the 96th percentile nationally. But Huneeus “subsequently complained about the score in a call with CW-1.”
Bruce and Davina Isackson
Residents of Hillsborough
Bruce is the president of a real estate development firm in Woodside.
The Isacksons allegedly partook in both the entrance exam and recruitment schemes. CW-1 said he created a false athletic profile for their daughter, touting her as a “Varsity 8 Stroke” for the Redwood Scullers, among other honors. Shortly after she was accepted to USC, KWF employees invoiced the Isacksons for a “generous donation” of $250,000, the affidavit says.
According to the Department of Justice, Bruce Isackson transferred over 2,100 Facebook shares, valued at over $251,000, to KWF. In a conversation with CW-1 transcribed in the affidavit, Isackson allegedly said, “I think we’ll definitely pay cash this time, and not, not — not run it through the other way.”
Resident of Menlo Park
Klapper is listed as the co-owner of a jewelry business.
The details on Klapper are more scarce, but the affidavit indicates she gave $15,000 to KWF in Nov. 2017 for the college entrance exam cheating scheme on behalf of her son.
Resident of Mill Valley
McGlashan is listed as the founder and managing partner of TPG Growth, a global private equity firm. According to the Marin Independent-Journal, he serves on the board of trustees at Marin Academy, a private school in San Rafael.
Recode notes that McGlashan has a reputation in Silicon Valley as one of the “most prominent voices for ethical investing.”
McGlashan is accused of conspiring to bribe Heinel, an associate athletic director at USC, to admit his son as a recruited athlete, despite the fact the son had no such athletic credentials. In one conversation transcribed in the affidavit, CW-1 said he would create a fake athlete profile for the son “and figure out how to Photoshop and stuff.”
“I had a boy last year, I made him a long snapper,” CW-1 said. “And he was 145 pounds. Long snapper.”
“I love it. I love it,” McGlashan allegedly replied. “That is so funny.”
McGlashan also allegedly gave $50,000 to KWF in exchange for CW-2 to privately proctor the ACT to his son and “correct his son’s answers after the test was completed.”
Marci Palatella is listed as the CEO of a liquor distribution company in Burlingame. She’s also married to former 49er Lou Palatella, 85. Marci Palatella is accused of conspiring to bribe USC’s senior associate athletic director to designate her son as a football recruit to boost his chances of getting into the school.
The documents reveal Palatella first got involved in the admissions scam when CW-1 advised she take her son to get evaluated by a psychologist in order to get extra allotted time to take the SAT and ACT. In March 2017, Palatella wired KWF $75,000 and took her son to the West Hollywood test center, where he took the SAT. He ended up scored a 1410 out of 1600.
CW-1 told Palatella her son would need to be designated as a football recruit to get into an elite school, plus she would need to make a sizable donation. Palatella worried this wouldn’t work since her son had taken a year off the sport, but CW-1 advised her not to worry.
Laura Janke, then the women’s soccer assistant coach at USC, allegedly created a football profile for Palatella’s son that falsely stated he was a championship-winning football player, a member of the defensive line and a “long snapper.”
Palatella wrote a $100,000 check, payable to the USC Women’s Athletic Board, with a note that said, “Our son … is beyond thrilled at the prospect of attending USC as a freshman this fall.”
After he was accepted, she allegedly paid another $400,000 to KWF.
Peter Jan “P.J” Sartorio
Menlo Park resident
Sartorio is listed as a “packaged food entrepreneur.” News articles identify Sartorio as the founder of PJ’s Organics, a company specializing in frozen burritos.
Sartorio is charged with participating in the college entrance cheating scheme by “paying CW-1 $15,000 in cash in or about June 2017 to have CW-2 purport to proctor the ACT for Sartorio’s daughter, and correct her exam answers.”
This played out conventionally; Sartorio’s daughter was allegedly approved for extra time on her test, and then traveled to West Hollywood to take the ACT exam. She received a score of 27 on the ACT, which ranked in the 86th percentile of scores. Her relative success on the ACT did not align with her previous experience on the PSAT, where her two scores ranked in the 42nd and 51st percentiles, respectively.
“There would be no — there would be no mention of that,” Sartorio said in a recorded call transcribed in the affidavit, referring to speaking of the cheating scheme with potential auditors. “‘Cause that’s never happened. There’s no record of — All I know is I– I– I paid bills that were sent to me, invoiced.”
Todd and Diane Blake
Residents of Ross, California
Todd is listed as an “entrepreneur and investor,” while Diane is an executive at a retail merchandising firm.
The couple is charged with bribing Heinel to “facilitate their daughter’s admission to USC as a purported volleyball recruit.” Their daughter was not good enough to play volleyball at USC, but information sent to the university communicated (falsely) that she was an impressively qualified player. The Blakes paid $250,000 total, $200,000 to KWF and $50,000 to USC Women’s Athletics.
At one point in a recorded conversation with CW-1, Todd Blake is confused about which sport he purported his daughter was playing.
“It was– it was basketball, wasn’t it,” Blake says.”
“No, it wasn’t basketball [inaudible],” CW-1 responds. “It was volleyball.”
In another recorded call, Diane Blake wonders if she should be worried.
“So, wow,” Blake says. “Okay. Okay, gotcha. Like, should I be concerned? “
“No, I don’t think so,” CW-1 responds. “I mean, it’s, it’s a lot of years and a lot of kids and a lot of sports.”
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/ncaa-college-cheating-admissions-scandal-bay-area-13682757.php.