Calif. parent in college bribery scheme appears in Boston court
A former top investment manager who prosecutors say has “unlimited resources” appeared Wednesday in federal court in Boston to face charges for allegedly paying bribes to get three of his children into Georgetown and USC as part of a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal.
Douglas Hodge, 61, of Laguna Beach, Calif., did not enter a plea during his brief appearance in US District Court in Boston, where’s he’s charged with two mail fraud-related counts.
He was released on $500,000 bond, despite entreaties from Assistant US Attorney Eric S. Rosen, who told the court Hodge was a flight risk with “unlimited resources” and facing a maximum prison term of 20 years if convicted.
Hodge’s lawyer, Miranda Hooker, asserted her client isn’t a flight risk, noting he flew back to the US when he learned he’d been charged.
When Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley asked Hodge if he understood the charges, he calmly replied, “Yes, I do.” No details of the allegations were read in court.
An affidavit in the case described Hodge as the former boss of a large investment management company. He’s among the dozens of wealthy parents facing fraud-related charges in connection with the scheme.
Reports in the business press identified Hodge as the former CEO of Pimco, and a biography on the website of the International Organization of Securities Commissions said he holds degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard.
Court records show he worked with William “Rick” Singer, the admitted ringleader of the scheme, who bribed coaches and college officials to get them to present clients’ children as sports team recruits, regardless of their athletic ability. Recruits had a better chance of getting admitted over nonrecruits with similar academic credentials.
Parents, including Hodge, allegedly cut fat checks to entities controlled by Singer and the corrupt school officials in furtherance of the scheme, prosecutors said.
Hodge first began working with Singer in 2008, when he wanted to get one of his daughters into Georgetown, according to an FBI affidavit.
Singer told Hodge in a February 2008 e-mail that his daughter had only a 50-50 chance of getting accepted based on her academic record, but “there may be an Olympic Sports angle we can use,” an FBI affidavit said.
Hodge’s daughter submitted an application to Georgetown indicating she had won multiple United States Tennis Association tournaments, but records showed she had never played in a USTA match, the filing said.
The daughter was accepted to Georgetown with assistance from the tennis coach, now charged criminally in connection with the scheme, and she never played tennis at the elite university, records show.
In 2013, the affidavit said, Hodge linked up with Singer again, this time to help another daughter get into USC. She was presented to a university committee as a soccer recruit under false claims that she played on a national champion tournament team, records show.
Hodge’s daughter got into USC but never played soccer.
In December 2014, records show, Hodge asked Singer via e-mail if his son, then a high school student, was “really qualified” for USC, adding, “He would go there in a heartbeat!!”
Singer responded, “No but I can try to work a deal . . . maybe Basketball or Football will give me a spot since their kids are not that strong.”
In January 2015, Hodge’s wife e-mailed Singer and noted that she couldn’t find photos of their son playing football but had pictures of his brother on the gridiron, records show.
Singer forwarded the note to a then-USC assistant soccer coach now charged criminally in the scheme, writing, “See below — I am sure there is a tennis one too. The boys look alike so I thought a football one would help too?”
Two days later, records show, Hodge e-mailed a different USC athletic department official who’s also now facing charges, writing, “We are preparing [my son’s] ‘sports resume’ as you requested and should be able to send it on to you early next week.”
The official, Donna Heinel, replied that Hodge should concentrate on his son’s “primary sport with accolades and achievement” then mention his secondary sport, records show.
The son was ultimately admitted to USC as a purported football recruit but never joined the team, the filing said. His athletic profile during the admissions process stated falsely that he played varsity football as a sophomore through his senior season and that he’d twice been a New Hampshire “Independent Schools All-American Selection,” when in fact he had only played freshman football.
Singer told Hodge in one e-mail, “Obviously we have stretched the truth but this is what is done for all kids,” the affidavit said. “Admissions just needs something to work with to show he is an athlete.”
In August 2018, Hodge called Singer to inquire about getting his youngest son into Loyola Marymount University, and the FBI listened in, pursuant to a court-ordered wiretap, the affidavit said.
Hodge told Singer, “We don’t have to talk in code. We know how this works,” the affidavit said.
Singer told Hodge in another recorded call in November 2018 that his charitable foundation was being audited.
Parents would send checks to the foundation under the guise of charitable contributions, when really the funds were payment for Singer’s illicit dealings with school officials, according to prosecutors.
Singer told Hodge in the November call, “What I said to [the IRS] is that your monies essentially went to our foundation to help fund underserved kids and that’s how we left it,” the affidavit said.
Hodge assured Singer that “I’m not going off script here,” the filing said. “I know what I did, which is I donated to your foundation. That foundation has — its stated mission is to help underserved kids basically get into — you know, through — get through college. And that’s all I’m going to say.”
During Wednesday’s hearing, Hodge was allowed to keep his passport and ordered to notify probation authorities if he plans to travel. He was also ordered to avoid contact with alleged victims, victims, witnesses, and codefendants, except for his immediate family.
His next court date in Boston hasn’t been set.