A California mom who falsely claimed that her white son was black and Latino and a first-generation college student was sentenced Wednesday to three weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to boost his ACT scores.
Marjorie Klapper, 50, of Menlo Park, is the ninth parent to be sentenced for her role in the college admissions scandal announced by federal investigators in March. The scandal has ensnared more than 50 people, coaches, and other conspirators, including actors Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
Klapper was also sentenced to one year of supervised release, ordered to complete 250 hours of community service, and required to pay a $9,500 fine.
"Ms. Klapper thereby not only corrupted the standardized testing system, but also specifically victimized the real minority applicants already fighting for admission to elite schools," US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said in a statement, calling the three-week prison sentence insufficient.
Klapper pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud in May. She admitted to paying $15,000 to participate in the college test score inflation scheme set up by Rick Singer.
According to prosecutors, Klapper engaged in multiple types of fraud over the course of three years on behalf of both of her sons. She first contacted Singer in 2014 to help prepare her older son for his college admission tests.
After her eldest son received an SAT score of 2140 out of 2400, Educational Testing Service, which administers the exam, accused him of cheating because of a discrepancy between his PSAT and SAT scores and "substantial agreement" between his answers and those of another student, prosecutors said.
ETS threatened to cancel the score, so Klapper agreed with Singer to submit a fake invoice to explain her son's improvement by falsely claiming he had taken more than 170 hours of private tutoring to prepare for the test, according to court documents. ETS canceled the score anyway.
Two years later, Klapper reached out to Singer again on behalf of her younger son after hearing that the daughter of another Menlo Park parent, Peter Jan Sartorio, was taking the SAT at Singer's rigged testing center in West Hollywood, according to prosecutors. (Sartorio was also charged in the scheme and was sentenced last week.)
Klapper’s younger son took the ACT at the testing center in October 2017. After he completed the exam, a conspiring proctor corrected his answers to improve his score to a 30 out of a possible 36, prosecutors said. Klapper then paid $15,000 to Singer's bogus charity, Key Worldwide Foundation.
In addition to the test score inflation, Klapper also agreed with Singer to falsify her son's college applications by claiming that he was black or Latino and that he was a first-generation college student, even though both she and his father graduated from college.
"She purposefully sought to portray her son as a minority, and the child of parents who did not attend college, despite the fact that he was neither, because she thought that lie would further bolster his college prospects," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. "She thereby increased the likelihood that her fraud would come at the expense of an actual minority candidate, or an applicant who was actually the first in his or her family to attend college."
Prosecutors had recommended Klapper be sentenced to four months and fined her $20,000. Klapper's attorneys sought no additional prison time, asking for one year of supervised release, including four months of home confinement, as well as 300 hours of community service and a $20,000 fine.
"Mrs. Klapper's motives were maternal but her execution misguided and illegal," her attorneys wrote. "Beyond question, Ms. Klapper allowed her zeal to over-reach, for which she profoundly regrets and takes full responsibility."