Facing trial, Palo Alto couple plead guilty in college admissions scam

Side profile of Rick Singer, mastermind behind college admissions scandal.
William “Rick” Singer founder of the Edge College & Career Network, departs federal court in Boston in March 2019. Two parents abruptly have pled guilty to paying Singer to defraud the College Board.
(Steven Senne / Associated Press)

A California couple accused of paying $25,000 to cheat on their son’s college admissions test have pleaded guilty, avoiding a trial in federal court that would have started this month.

Dr. Gregory Colburn, 63, and Amy Colburn, 52, of Palo Alto, struck a deal in early December to avoid the trial. On Dec. 4, they pleaded guilty to one count each of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, along with honest services mail and wire fraud, acting US Attorney Nathaniel Mendell said in a statement.

The Silicon Valley couple had been scheduled to be tried starting Jan. 13 in U.S. District Court in Boston. A formal plea hearing was not immediately scheduled.


Mendell said that 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, Mendell said.

A Palo Alto couple accused of paying $25,000 to rig their son’s college entrance exam asked a federal judge this week to dismiss the indictment against them, claiming there was no conspiracy among the parents entangled in the college admissions scandal.

April 16, 2019

Singer, Dvorskiy and Riddell all have pleaded guilty to federal charges related to their respective roles in the scheme.

As part of a plea agreement, the Colburns each have agreed — subject to federal court approval — to serve eight weeks in prison, along with a year of supervised release, 100 hours of community service and a $12,500 fine, Mendell’s office said.

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 say.


3:01 p.m. Jan. 6, 2022: This story has been updated to reflect when the Palo Alto couple struck a deal to avoid a federal trial this month.