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Husband and wife latest to be sentenced in connection with ‘Varsity Blues’ admissions case

Gregory and Marcia Abbott left federal court in March.
Gregory and Marcia Abbott left federal court in March. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

A husband and wife were sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Boston to one month in prison for paying $125,000 in a scam to get their daughter into a selective college, prosecutors said.

Gregory and Marcia Abbott, who live in Manhattan and Aspen, Colo., became the latest parents to be sentenced to prison for their role in the massive college admissions cheating case. A judge also gave the couple one year of supervised release and ordered them to complete 250 hours of community service and to each pay a fine of $45,000, prosecutors said. They each pleaded guilty in May to a sole count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services fraud.

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Gregory Abbott, a 68-year-old food and beverage packaging titan, and Marcia Abbott, 59, paid a total of $125,000 last year to have the scheme’s mastermind, William “Rick” Singer, direct a corrupt proctor to correct their daughter’s answers on the SAT and ACT tests, significantly boosting her scores, records show.

The defendants are among a large group of wealthy parents entangled in the scheme. Prosecutors allege parents paid bribes to Singer to facilitate cheating on their children’s SAT and ACT exams, or to have their kids falsely certified as athletic recruits at top schools. Federal authorities dubbed the investigation “Operation Varsity Blues.”

The Abbotts were only charged with wrongdoing related to the tests.

“The Abbotts’ daughter took the ACT exam at a test center in West Hollywood that Singer ‘controlled’ through the center’s corrupt administrator,” said the US attorney’s office for Massachusetts in a statement. “After the Abbotts’ daughter completed the exam, defendant Mark Riddell corrected her answers. As a result of the cheating scheme, the Abbotts’ daughter received a fraudulent score of 35 out of 36 on the exam.”

The Abbotts also arranged with Singer to correct their daughter’s answers on the SAT subject tests to increase her scores, prosecutors said. The daughter took the exams again at the West Hollywood test center, and again Riddell corrected her answers, according to authorities. The scheme meant she received a perfect score of 800 on the math subject test and 710 on the literature test, officials said.

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Federal prosecutors had sought a sentence of eight months in prison for the husband and wife, one year of supervised release, and a fine of $40,000.

The Abbotts are the sixth and seventh parents to be sentenced in the college admissions case, according to the attorney’s office.

Last month, Devin Sloane, who is the 53-year-old chief executive of Los Angeles-based water and wastewater company AquaTecture LLC, was sentenced to four months behind bars for his role in the scheme. He had pleaded guilty in May to a sole count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Actress Felicity Huffman, who paid $15,000 to a consultant to inflate her daughter’s SAT scores, was the first parent to be sentenced in the case. She was given two weeks in prison last month.

US Attorney Andrew Lelling has said Hollywood actress Lori Loughlin, another defendant, could face a tougher sentence than Huffman if she’s convicted in the college admissions bribery scandal.


Emily Sweeney and Travis Andersen of Globe staff contributed to this report. Danny McDonald can be reached at daniel.mcdonald@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald.