Parents in College Admissions Scandal Change Pleas to Guilty
Michelle Janavs, a former executive at Chef America Inc., right, arrives at federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. (Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg)

Parents in College Admissions Scandal Change Pleas to Guilty

(Bloomberg) -- The third parent in as many days is changing her plea to guilty in the U.S. college admissions scandal, joining a group of defendants who have mostly been sentenced to prison in the biggest such scam the Justice Department has ever prosecuted.

California food executive Michelle Janavs follows Manuel Henriquez, the founder and former chief executive officer of Hercules Capital Inc., and Douglas Hodge, former CEO of the giant bond manager Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, in changing plea.

Their intentions were announced by the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, on his official Twitter page. The three are scheduled to enter their new pleas on Monday.

Like all 35 of the parents charged in the sprawling case, Janavs was accused of conspiring with corrupt admissions strategist Rick Singer to cheat her child’s way into college. Federal prosecutors said Janavs, of Newport Coast, California, paid Singer to rig her daughter’s college entrance exam score and to create a false profile of the girl as a volleyball recruit at the University of Southern California.

Henriquez and his wife, Elizabeth, were accused of taking part in the test-cheating part of the plot, which also included bribing college athletic coaches to get wealthy clients’ children a lock on elite colleges from Stanford to Yale.

Henriquez’s and Janavs’s lawyers didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment on their clients’ plea change. Elizabeth Henriquez, who like her husband pleaded not guilty, hasn’t indicated she is changing her plea.

The latest sentence in the case also came Friday, when U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani gave Los Angeles property developer Robert Flaxman one month in prison, as well as 250 hours of community service and a $50,000 fine, for paying $75,000 to rig his daughter’s entrance exam score.

On Thursday, prosecutors announced Hodge’s intended plea change. The Pimco veteran is accused of bribing sports coaches at the University of Southern California and Georgetown University.

The plea changes come after Talwani handed out a string of prison terms, ranging from two weeks to five months, to eight of the nine parents sentenced so far. She had ruled that the parents’ crimes fall under sentencing guidelines calling for zero to six months.

But in addition to the charge of mail fraud conspiracy for the 15 parents who pleaded guilty, the 19 who pleaded not guilty, including Janavs, Henriquez and Hodge, face an additional money-laundering charge and will be sentenced by a different federal judge, Nathaniel Gorton.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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