Four more parents pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Boston to fraud and money laundering charges in connection with the sweeping, nationwide college admissions cheating scandal , prosecutors said.
The office of US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling confirmed that the first parent on Monday’s docket, Douglas Hodge, 62, of Laguna Beach, Cali., had admitted to participating in the scheme, pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services and wire fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering.
On Monday evening, a spokeswoman for Lelling’s office confirmed that Michelle Janavs, 48, of Newport Coast, Calif.; and Manuel Henriquez, 56, and his wife Elizabeth Henriquez, 56, both of Atherton, Calif., also had pleaded guilty to those charges.
They are among dozens of defendants charged in the scheme, in which wealthy parents cut fat checks to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer to have their children falsely designated as athletic recruits at fancy schools, or to pad their kids’ SAT and ACT scores.
Singer ultimately cooperated with the feds and secretly recorded a number of parents as they described the con job in strikingly blunt terms. Singer’s pleaded guilty to running the show and awaits sentencing.
An FBI affidavit said Hodge, identified in the business press as the former boss of Pimco, began working with Singer in 2008, when he wanted to get one of his daughters into Georgetown.
The Henriquezes allegedly agreed in the fall of 2015 to pay Singer $25,000 to have a corrupt SAT proctor provide test answers to their oldest daughter.
In addition, prosecutors say, the couple agreed to pay Singer $400,000 for their daughter’s “admission to Georgetown as a purported tennis recruit.” The daughter was offered admission to Georgetown in the spring of 2016, records show.
The Henriquezes allegedly engaged in similar malfeasance when their younger daughter applied to colleges, according to legal filings. In 2017, an indictment said, the couple paid Singer at least $25,000 to boost their younger daughter’s college entrance scores.
The tab for that scam was initially set at $75,000, but Singer told investigators that Manuel Henriquez instead agreed to use his claimed sway at Northeastern University to help Singer get an applicant accepted.
Henriquez “in an e-mail to a senior development officer at Northeastern University” described Singer’s client as an “excellent candidate for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities,” an affidavit said.
Renata Nyul, a Northeastern spokeswoman, confirmed via e-mail last week that Manuel Henriquez had previously been a member of the Northeastern University Corporation, “which no longer exists.”
Nyul also pushed back on the suggestion that Henriquez had pull at Northeastern.
“Just because Henriquez said he had influence on admissions decisions doesn’t mean he did,” she said in an e-mail.
All told, Manuel Henriquez admitted to paying $450,000 to secure college admission for his daughters, prosecutors said.
Janavs, the heiress to the Hot Pockets fortune, paid hundreds of thousands to falsify her daughter’s ACT exam score and get her into USC as a phony volleyball recruit, records show. According to the attorney’s office, she agreed to pay $300,000 to participate in the entrance exam cheating and athletic recruitment schemes.
On Monday, Hodge expressed contrition in a statement.
“I accept full and complete responsibility for my conduct. I have always prided myself on leading by example, and I am ashamed of the decisions I made,” Hodge said. “I acted out of love for my children, but I know that this explanation for my actions is not an excuse. I also want to apologize to the deserving college students who may have been adversely impacted by this process.”
Hodge has impressive academic credentials in his own right; a biography on the website of the International Organization of Securities Commissions said Hodge holds degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard.
Singer told the Harvard alum 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 but never played tennis for the Hoyas, 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 second daughter got into USC but never laced up soccer cleats for the Trojans.
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.”
The son was ultimately admitted to USC as a purported football recruit but never donned shoulder pads for the powerhouse program, 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 only played freshman football.
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.
Federal prosecutors also announced on Monday that Martin Fox, the former president of a private tennis academy in Texas, will plead guilty in connection with his involvement in a scheme to use bribery to facilitate the admission of applicants to selective colleges and universities.
Among the ensnared parents in the case is Hollywood star Felicity Huffman, who’s currently serving a 14-day prison term as punishment for paying a $15,000 bribe to pad her daughter’s SAT score.
Huffman, 56, the star of the hit show “Desperate Housewives” who also won critical praise for her gutsy performance in the film “Transamerica,” will regain her freedom on Oct. 27, according to the US Bureau of Prisons website. She is assigned to the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, Calif., the Globe reported.