A former asset management executive from California was sentenced Friday to nine months in prison for conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering in an illicit scheme to get his children into college — the longest term any parent has yet received in the admissions bribery and cheating scandal, federal prosecutors announced.
Douglas Hodge, 61, former chief executive of Pacific Investment Management Co., known as Pimco, had pleaded guilty to the two felony counts in October. Prosecutors said in a sentencing memorandum that Hodge paid bribes totaling $850,000 over more than a decade to help two children get into the University of Southern California and two children into Georgetown University, with all of them applying as fake athletic recruits.
At a hearing in Boston, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton sentenced Hodge to nine months in prison and two years of supervised release and ordered him to pay a $750,000 fine and perform 500 hours of community service, according to the office of the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts. The previous longest prison term in the Varsity Blues scandal was six months for a parent who helped two children get into USC as phony soccer and basketball recruits.
Hodge, of Laguna Beach, California, became the 14th parent sentenced in a scandal that exposed vulnerabilities in college admission test security. It also highlighted weaknesses in the process used to review applications that come to admissions officers with the support of athletic officials. The scam was orchestrated by admission consultant William “Rick” Singer, who has pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and other crimes. In all, more than 50 people have been charged.
Prosecutors said Hodge’s crimes stood out.
“Hodge engaged in the scheme more often, and over a longer period of time, than any of the defendants charged to date,” they wrote in a sentencing memo this week that urged a two-year prison term. The memo provided new details about Hodge’s conspiracy with Singer.
In fall 2008, the sentencing memo said, Hodge agreed to pay Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst to recruit his oldest daughter as a tennis player. Ultimately, Hodge paid Ernst $150,000 in two checks made out to the coach, prosecutors wrote. The daughter’s application to Georgetown, they wrote, included details Singer fabricated about her tennis credentials, such as a tennis court she purportedly helped to build in the Cambodian jungle.
In 2010 and 2011, prosecutors wrote, Hodge repeated the scheme for his oldest son and sent Ernst another $175,000 after he was admitted to Georgetown. Neither the son nor the daughter played competitive tennis, according to prosecutors.
Ernst, indicted last year on charges of racketeering conspiracy and other crimes, has pleaded not guilty.
In 2013, Hodge’s second daughter was admitted to USC as a fake soccer recruit, prosecutors wrote, and in 2015, his second son was admitted to USC as a fake football recruit. For those two admissions, Hodge paid a total of $525,000, prosecutors wrote, with much of that money passed through a sham charity Singer used to collect funds for bribes.
None of Hodge’s children was charged with any crimes.
Prosecutors said Hodge sought to use Singer’s scheme in 2018 to help a third son get into Loyola Marymount University. Singer told him it would cost $200,000 to $250,000, according to the sentencing memo. “That’s pretty significant, but okay, I can — we’ll swing that,” Hodge replied, according to the memo. But that attempt did not succeed.
In a statement prepared in advance of his sentencing, Hodge declared that he felt “deepest remorse” and insisted that his children did not participate in the scheme.
“I know that I unfairly, and ultimately illegally, tipped the scales in favor of my children over others, over the hopes and dreams of other parents, who had the same aspirations for their children as I did for mine,” Hodge said in the statement. “To those children, and their parents, I can only express my deepest and sincerest regret.”