Two charged in college admissions scandal resign from Sage Hill School’s board
Two of the parents charged in connection with the wide-reaching college admissions cheating scandal are no longer on Sage Hill School’s board of trustees.
Their resignations were confirmed Thursday by Torrey Olins, the Newport Coast private school’s director of communications and marketing.
Douglas Hodge and Michelle Janavs are among the 50 people facing charges in the federal dragnet.
Hodge, 61, of Laguna Beach, is a former chief executive of Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co., or PIMCO. He is accused of paying bribes to get two of his children into USC as part of the admissions bribery scandal. He was released Wednesday on $500,000 bond after briefly appearing in federal court in Boston, where he did not enter a plea on charges including conspiracy to commit mail fraud, the Boston Globe reported.
In a complaint, prosecutors lay out details about allegedly dishonest college application tactics involving four of his children, although it only alleges bribes being used for two. Hodge is accused of paying more than a half-million dollars to Newport Beach education consultant William “Rick” Singer and his associates to get a son and daughter into USC as fake athletic recruits.
Authorities allege that Hodge and Singer — who has pleaded guilty to multiple felonies — conspired in 2012 and 2013 to have the daughter admitted to USC as a soccer recruit in exchange for $200,000. A fabricated athletic profile described the girl as an “All Ex-Patriot Japan National Select Team Player” and a member of an “All-National Championship Tournament Team.” She did not play soccer for the Trojans.
In 2015, when trying to get one of his sons admitted to USC as a football player, Hodge’s wife submitted a photo of the boy’s brother playing football, according to an indictment. Prosecutors claim the son, who last played football as a ninth-grader, enrolled at USC after his father paid $325,000 in bribes, but he did not end up playing for the Trojans’ historically competitive football program.
Authorities say Hodge had started pursuing a rigged admission for another child to Loyola Marymount University in 2018, but the complaint did not indicate whether the plan was successful or if any money changed hands.
Also, according to prosecutors, one of Hodge’s daughters enrolled at Georgetown University in 2009 as a tennis player under indicted former coach Gordon Ernst. Her application allegedly stated that she had won multiple U.S. Tennis Assn. tournaments, though she never played a USTA match. She did not play tennis at Georgetown.
A now-deleted short biography of Hodge on Sage Hill’s website said one of his daughters graduated from the $40,000-a-year school in 2013 and that he also was on the board of the Thacher School, an exclusive boarding school in Ojai, and the NOVA Academy Children’s Foundation, which has a campus in Santa Ana. Hodge also has been active over the years with Court Appointed Special Advocates, which advocates for abused or neglected children in the legal system.
Hodge’s name has been wiped from the Sage Hill, Thacher and NOVA Academy websites but shows in cached versions.
Janavs, a Newport resident, former executive in her family’s food manufacturing business and USC graduate, is accused of using bribery to get her two daughters into preferred schools.
According to the federal complaint, Janavs paid $100,000 for Singer to help a daughter cheat on her ACT in 2017 and get into USC as a purported beach volleyball player. Earlier this year, prosecutors allege, she paid $50,000 for another daughter to cheat on the exam.
Janavs’ family fortune comes from Chef America Inc., which was founded by her father, Paul Merage, and his brother David, who developed the Hot Pocket line of frozen calzone-style snacks. Chef America was sold to Nestle in 2002 for $2.6 billion. The Merage family name also is attached to the Merage Jewish Community Center in Irvine and the business school at UC Irvine.
Newport Beach resident I-Hin “Joey” Chen, 64, who operates a Torrance-based provider of warehousing and related services for the shipping industry, is accused of paying $75,000 for high scores on his son’s ACT.
Robert Flaxman, 62, of Laguna Beach, founder and chief executive of Costa Mesa-based Crown Realty & Development, is accused of participating in two schemes in 2016, paying $250,000 to get one child recruited as an athlete to the University of San Diego and $75,000 to help another cheat on the ACT.
Ali Khosroshahin, a Fountain Valley resident, former USC women’s head soccer coach and, until last season, the boys’ soccer coach at Newport Harbor High School, was indicted on allegations of fabricating athlete profiles for prospective students.
This article was originally published at 3 p.m. and was later updated with additional information.
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