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Laguna and Newport parents among four who plead guilty in college admissions scandal

Michelle Janavs and Douglas Hodge
Michelle Janavs of Newport Coast and Douglas Hodge of Laguna Beach pleaded guilty Monday to charges in the college admissions scandal.
(File Photos)

Douglas Hodge, a Laguna Beach resident and former chief executive of Newport Beach-based investment giant PIMCO, and Michelle Janavs, a philanthropist from Newport Coast, pleaded guilty Monday to charges in the college admissions scandal.

They were among four parents who reversed not-guilty pleas after coming under new pressure from federal prosecutors. Each faced charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

In pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton on Monday morning, Hodge acknowledged paying William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach consultant at the center of the scandal, $525,000 to have two of his children admitted to USC as bogus athletic recruits. He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 22.

Hodge had balked at a deal offered after his arrest in March to plead guilty to a single fraud conspiracy charge and was subsequently indicted on an additional charge of money laundering conspiracy.

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He reversed course late last week after prosecutors warned parents who had so far maintained their innocence that they could be charged with committing federal program bribery as soon as this week, people familiar with the negotiations said.

Authorities said Hodge paid $200,000 to get his daughter admitted as a soccer recruit in 2013 and $325,000 to get his son in as a football recruit in 2015. Neither played on those teams.

Hodge said in a statement that he took “full and complete responsibility” for his crimes and apologized to his family and “deserving college students who may have been adversely impacted by this process.”

“I acted out of love for my children,” he said, “but I know that this explanation for my actions is not an excuse.”

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Janavs was accused of paying $400,000 to get her son admitted to Georgetown University as a fake tennis recruit in 2017. She separately paid $100,000 to help two of her daughters cheat on the ACT exam in 2017 and 2019, prosecutors said.

Janavs is a former executive of Chef America Inc., a food producer that created the Hot Pocket. She is set to be sentenced Feb. 25.

Hodge and Janavs resigned earlier this year from the board of trustees of Sage Hill School, a private school in Newport Coast.

Two other parents, Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez of Atherton, also pleaded guilty Monday.

Fifteen other parents previously pleaded guilty as part of plea agreements. Prosecutors agreed to request lighter sentences for those parents since they took responsibility earlier.

Out of 10 parents sentenced so far, nine have been dealt prison terms ranging from 14 days to five months. An additional 15 parents are fighting charges tied to the scheme. Their trials are expected to begin next year.

Matthew Ormseth writes for the Los Angeles Times. City News Service and Daily Pilot staff contributed to this report.

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Updates:
7:41 AM, Oct. 22, 2019: This article was originally published at 8:23 a.m. Oct. 21 and has been updated with additional information.

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