Locals Plead Guilty in College Admission Scandal

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Newport Coast resident Michelle Janavs and Laguna Beach resident Douglas Hodge pleaded guilty Monday in Massachusetts federal court to conspiracy charges for their roles in the college admissions scandal.

In pleading guilty before U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton, Hodge copped to paying William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach consultant at the center of the scandal, $525,000 to get two of his children admitted to the University of Southern California through fraudulent athletic recruitment.

“I acted out of love for my children,” Hodge said in a statement reported by the Los Angeles Times, “but I know that this explanation for my actions is not an excuse.”

Attorneys for Hodge and Janavs didn’t respond to requests for comment from the Independent.

After his March arrest, the former Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. (PIMCO) chief executive rejected a plea deal for a single fraud conspiracy charge and was subsequently indicted on an additional charge of money laundering conspiracy.

Hodge changed his mind late last week after prosecutors warned parents arguing they were innocent that they could be charged with committing federal program bribery as soon as this week, people familiar with the negotiations told the Los Angeles Times.

Prosecutors allege Janavs’ paid $300,000 to participate in an college entrance exam and fraudulent athletic recruitment schemes. She is a former executive at Chef America Inc., a food processing company that created the Hot Pocket.

In 2017, Janavs conspired with Singer and others to secure her children’s admission to selective colleges and universities by committing bribery and fraud, prosecutors said. Later that year, Janavs’ older daughter took the ACT exam at a West Hollywood test center that Singer “controlled” through corrupt test proctor Mark Riddell, who reviewed and corrected her answers.

Last February, the older daughter took the ACT a second time at the same test center Riddell corrected her answers again, prosecutors said.

Singer also helped Janavs facilitate older daughter’s recruitment as a USC volleyball player based on bogus athletic credentials. Janavs was arrested before her older daughter was officially admitted to USC, prosecutors said.

In March, Hodge and Janavs resigned from of the Board of Trustees for Sage Hill School in the wake of their federal indictments.

“The actions of two former members of the Board of Trustees detailed in this case do not in any way reflect Sage Hill School’s mission, values and vision,” Sage Hill officials wrote in an email Thursday.

Federal prosecutors targeted 50 people in the college admission scandal, which inspired a Lifetime movie about two wealthy mothers caught in the investigation’s fallout.

Hodge and Janavs are respectively scheduled to appear before Gorton for sentencing on Jan 22 and Feb. 25.

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