Parents get 8 weeks in prison for college bribery scandal

BOSTON – A California couple was sentenced to eight weeks in prison on Thursday after pleading guilty to paying $25,000 to cheat on their son’s college admissions test.

Dr. Gregory Colburn, 63, and Amy Colburn, 52, of Palo Alto, were the 16th and 17th parents to be sentenced in the sprawling bribery scandal. The couple abruptly pleaded guilty in January — six weeks before they were to go on trial — to money laundering and mail fraud conspiracy charges.

A federal judge in Boston accepted their plea deal, which also includes a year of supervised release, 100 hours of community service and $12,500 fines.

Judge Nathaniel Gorton said he was “flabbergasted” that the Colburns and other successful parents so easily abandoned their principles to get their kids into college, but he acknowledged they have already faced consequences, including damage to their reputations and financial instability.

“You and many of your codefendants have already been punished for your selfish, brazen and frankly stupid conduct,” Gorton told the couple. “You both have time to make it up to the ones you love, and to society in general.”

In brief statements, both parents said they were sorry and accepted responsibility for their actions.

Federal prosecutors said the Colburns agreed to plead guilty to their roles in a scheme to defraud The College Board by paying William “Rick” Singer $25,000 to bribe Igor Dvorskiy, a corrupt test administrator.

Dvorskiy, in turn, arranged for bogus test proctor Mark Riddell to fraudulently inflate the score on the SAT exam taken by the Colburns’ son, the U.S. Attorney's office in Boston said.

Singer, Dvorskiy and Riddell all have pleaded guilty to federal charges related to their respective roles in the scheme. Riddell was sentenced last week to four months' imprisonment; Dvorskiy is scheduled to be sentenced in June.

The couple are among nearly 60 wealthy parents, athletic coaches and others charged since March 2019 in the case dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” The scheme led by Singer involved rigging test scores and paying off sports coaches to help students get into top universities across the country, prosecutors said.