Four parents, including the former head of one of the world’s biggest asset managers and an heir to a fortune created by microwaveable snacks, have pleaded guilty in the nation’s largest college admissions prosecution.
The New York Times reports that as trials draw closer and prosecutors warn of new charges, the four were part of a new wave of parents pleading guilty to using lies and bribery to secure their children’s admission to elite colleges.
Among those entering pleas was Douglas Hodge, a former chief executive of Pimco and one of the most prominent business executives caught up in the scandal. He admitted that he conspired to pay more than $500,000 in bribes to get two of his children admitted to the University of Southern California as athletic recruits.
“I accept full and complete responsibility for my conduct,” Hodge said in a statement. “I have always prided myself on leading by example, and I am ashamed of the decisions I made.”
The other parents who pleaded guilty were Manuel Henriquez, the founder and former chief executive of Hercules Capital, a financial firm in Palo Alto, Calif., and his wife, Elizabeth, and Michelle Janavs, of Newport Coast, Calif., whose father and uncle invented Hot Pockets.
More than a dozen parents caught up in the scandal, including the actress Felicity Huffman, pleaded guilty months ago in connection with the cheating scheme. But others among nearly three dozen parents charged, including Hodge, had entered not guilty pleas and, until now, appeared headed for trial.
The new group of guilty pleas reflected what lawyers involved in the case said was an intense campaign by the United States attorney’s office to persuade the remaining parents to reverse course.
According to several of the lawyers involved in the case, prosecutors gave some parents deadlines to agree to plead guilty, or risk facing a new charge that had the potential to bring a longer sentence.
These lawyers said they now expect prosecutors to bring that new charge — known as federal programs bribery — against most, if not all, of the parents who stick to their not-guilty pleas.
The parents who pleaded guilty on Monday all told the judge, either on their own or through lawyers, that prosecutors had assured them they would not face additional charges if they pleaded guilty.
All four pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud.