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Laguna parent agrees to plead guilty in college admissions scandal; Newport man faces new charge

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I-Hsin “Joey” Chen of Newport Beach, left, picked up a charge Tuesday of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Robert Flaxman of Laguna Beach, right, agreed Monday to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.
(AP)

Two more local parents accused in the wide-reaching college admissions scandal moved forward in their cases this week, with one getting hit with another charge and another agreeing to plead guilty.

I-Hsin “Joey” Chen of Newport Beach was indicted Tuesday on one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He is one of 16 parents who picked up more charges a day after 13 others, including actress Felicity Huffman, agreed to plead guilty for their roles in the nationwide scheme.

Chen, who was not one of the parents who agreed to plea, had already been charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

Robert Flaxman of Laguna Beach, however, agreed Monday to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud.

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According to prosecutors, Chen paid $75,000 in 2018 to the for-profit entity of the scheme’s mastermind, Newport Beach college consultant William “Rick” Singer, under the guise of consulting services for Chen’s business, a Torrance-based provider of warehousing and related services for the shipping industry.

Authorities allege the payment was actually to have Singer’s associate change the answers on Chen’s son’s ACT exam, allowing him to score 33 out of 36 possible points.

Chen’s arraignment has not yet been set.

Expert test-taker in college admissions scheme pleads guilty »

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Singer has admitted to offering wealthy parents a smorgasbord of illicit entry points to top universities for their children, from rigged entrance exams to college coaches who would recruit the students for six-figure bribes. Fifty people, including 33 parents, have been charged in the scheme.

Chen, Laguna Beach financier Douglas Hodge and Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs of Newport Beach are among the 16 parents, including actress Lori Loughlin, who were indicted Tuesday on additional charges.

In Flaxman’s case, prosecutors allege the real estate developer paid Singer $75,000 to have his associate correct Flaxman’s daughter’s answers on the ACT, boosting her score by eight points.

Flaxman’s charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, but his plea agreement recommends “incarceration at the low end of the guidelines sentencing range” along with a $40,000 fine, among other potential penalties. A plea hearing is set for May 24 in Boston.

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.


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