Palo Alto couple files motion to dismiss charges in college bribery case

Daily Post Staff Writer

A Palo Alto couple is asking a federal judge to dismiss their fraud and conspiracy charges for their alleged involvement in the national college admissions scandal.

Lawyers for Amy Colburn and Dr. Gregory Colburn, a radiation oncologist at O’Connor Hospital in San Jose, argue in a motion filed yesterday (April 15) that the Colburns’ alleged role in the scheme — which they dispute — doesn’t amount to conspiracy because they weren’t aware of the other parents’ dealings with admitted fraudster Rick Singer.

The Colburns’ attorney said the conspiracy charge amounts to a “rimless hub and spokes” where Singer and his associates are the “hub” of the wheel and the parents, including the Colburns, are the “spokes.”

But because the parents weren’t necessarily in cahoots with each other, the wheel doesn’t have a rim and doesn’t amount to a conspiracy, the Colburns’ attorneys write.

“There is simply no reasonable basis for a jury to conclude that the Colburns had any interest in whether other people’s kids got into college,” the motion states.

The issue of a mass conspiracy

The Colburns’ attorneys also cited a case in which a judge warned against the “drift toward totalitarian institutions” in trying defendants for mass conspiracy.
The Colburns are charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud as well as honest services mail and wire fraud. They are also charged with money laundering conspiracy.

Singer has cooperated with investigators and admitted to accepting millions of dollars from parents all over the country to bribe college athletic officials and falsify SAT and ACT scores in order to get wealthy teens into college.

Nineteen parents across the country have been charged in the scandal.

The Colburns are accused of paying Singer $25,000 to have Mark Riddell, who pleaded guilty last week, pose as a proctor for their son’s SAT and secretly correct his answers in March 2018.

Riddell allegedly earned a score of 1190 out of 1600 for the Colburns’ son, who applied to Texas Christian University, Indiana University, the University of Oregon and the University of Arizona.

The Colburns say they paid less than others

The Colburns point out in their motion that their alleged $25,000 payment is significantly lower than many of the other parents’ payoffs, which ranged from $75,000 to $1.72 million.

As for the charge of honest services mail or wire fraud, the Colburns’ attorneys argue that under the law prosecutors have to prove that the Colburns’ alleged actions caused a deprivation of money or tangible property, which doesn’t include intellectual property.

Another local, Hillsborough alcohol entrepreneur Marci Palatella — whose husband is retired 49er Lou Palatella — also pleaded innocent yesterday (April 15).

Palatella allegedly paid Singer $500,000 to get their son into USC by arranging their son to take the SAT in a private classroom with a proctor who helped him with the test.

Singer then allegedly used a photo of the Palatellas’ son in a football uniform and had a USC athletics official create a football profile for him, falsifying his athletic qualifications.

Palatella allegedly mailed a $100,000 check 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.”


  1. So, they’re essentially admitting to paying Singer to have someone take the SAT for their son, but don’t want to be lumped in with everyone else.

  2. Whatever their guilt as to school admission process, I must say I am appalled at the enhanced crime of conspiracy. This word has “co” and “con” (with). There is the problem. How can one conspire with people they had no communication with? The prosecutor seems to have little value for the justice of a law as he enhances crime based upin his opion. Are we safe from this precedent?
    I doubt it.

    • The conspiracy can simply be between Singer and the Colburns. The three of them (four if you include their son) conspired to commit fraud to increase their son’s SAT score. They conspired to commit fraud.

    • What is CONSPIRACY?

      In criminal law. A combination or confederacy between two or more persons formed for the purpose of committing, by their joint efforts, some unlawful or criminal act, or some act which is innocent in itself, but becomes unlawful when done by the concerted action of the conspirators, or for the purpose of using criminal or unlawful means to the commission of an act not in itself unlawful. Pettibone v. U. S., 148 U. S. 197, 13 Sup. Ct. 542, 37 L. Ed. 419

Comments are closed.