Couple get month sentence in college bribery scandal
BOSTON (AP) — A business executive and his wife, a former journalist, were each sentenced to a month in prison Tuesday for paying $125,000 to rig their daughter’s college entrance exams in a scandal involving dozens of wealthy and sometimes famous parents.
Gregory and Marcia Abbott, of New York and Colorado, were sentenced in Boston’s federal court after pleading guilty to a single count of fraud and conspiracy. They follow five other parents who have been sentenced so far, with prison sentences ranging from 14 days to five months.
The Abbotts paid $50,000 to have a test proctor correct their daughter’s ACT exam answers in 2018, along with $75,000 to rig her SAT subject tests in math and literature, authorities said. They kept the scheme hidden from their daughter.
Prosecutors had pushed for sentences of eight months in prison and a $40,000 fine for each parent. They said the couple planned to use the test scores to get their daughter into Duke University, where Marcia Abbott had received an English degree.
In a Sept. 27 letter to the court, Gregory Abbott said that his actions were “wrong and stupid” and that he feels “genuine remorse.”
“I share the same sensibilities as most people and, strange as it may sound, identify with the public outrage over my own actions,” he wrote. “I accept full shame and responsibility.”
Gregory Abbott, who lives in New York City, was chairman and CEO of International Dispensing Corp., a food packaging company, in New York until he took a leave of absence in March. Marcia Abbott, who lives in the couple’s home in Aspen, is a former magazine editor and writer. A wedding announcement in 1987 said she was a former fashion editor for Family Circle.
Meanwhile, the case’s lead prosecutor said he plans to recommend longer prison sentences for “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and other parents contesting the charges against them.
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a Sunday interview with Boston’s WCVB-TV that the longer Loughlin fights the charges, the longer her recommended sentence will be.
“Let’s say she goes through to trial: If it’s after trial, I think certainly we’d be asking for something substantially higher. If she resolved her case short of trial, something a little lower than that,” Lelling said.
Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying $500,000 to get their two daughters into the University of Southern California as fake athletes. They have pleaded not guilty.
Lelling added that actress Felicity Huffman’s sentence of 14 days in prison was “reasonable.” The “Desperate Housewives” star was sentenced Sept. 13 after she admitted to paying $15,000 to rig her daughter’s SAT score.
“Huffman was probably the least culpable of the defendants who we’ve charged in that case,” Lelling said. “She took responsibility almost immediately. She was contrite, did not try to minimize her conduct. I think she handled it in a very classy way,” Lelling said.