A former finance executive prosecutors have described as one of “the most culpable parents” of the dozens charged in the the nation’s largest-ever college admissions scheme was sentenced to nine months in prison on Friday morning in Boston federal court.
Douglas Hodge, former chief executive of global investment management firm Pimco, pleaded guilty in October to participating in the saga known by its FBI moniker “Varsity Blues”—and for its A-list defendants, who have included actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Hodge copped to money laundering conspiracy and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud charges after prosecutors said he paid bribes to get four of his seven children into elite schools.
While engaging in the scheme, Hodge “was living a secret double life,” wrote Justin O’Connell, an assistant U. S. attorney, “using bribery and fraud to fuel a mirage of success and accomplishment.”
“There is no parent sentenced to date who benefited more from Singer’s scheme than Doug Hodge,” O’Connell said in court on Friday.
U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton, who sentenced Hodge on Friday, said during the hearing that “there was certainly a loss to the overall educational system in this country when Mr. Hodge and others repeatedly used their massive fortunes to illegally circumvent the college admissions process.”
Hodge’s sentence is the harshest punishment imposed so far on a parent embroiled in the case. Toby Macfarlane, an insurance executive, previously received the longest sentence of the bunch: six months in prison.
Hodge was also slapped with $750,000 in fines and 500 hours of community service.
Prominent college coaches, business executives, and Hollywood stars—including Huffman, of Desperate Housewives, and Loughlin, of Full House—were ensnared in the sprawling case in March 2019. Huffman was the first of 13 defendants to be sentenced in the scheme and served two weeks in prison after she confessed to paying a Harvard graduate $15,000 to correct her eldest daughter’s answers on the SAT.
Loughlin and 14 others have maintained their innocence—even in the face of additional indictments in recent months.
Hodge was one of the dozens of parents charged after paying the scheme’s confessed ringleader Rick Singer—a former private college-admissions consultant—to facilitate his childrens’ entry into elite schools. In a sentencing memorandum filed earlier this week, prosecutors said Hodge “engaged in the scheme more often, and over a longer period of time, than any of the defendants charged to date, paying bribes totaling $850,000, over more than a decade, to secure the admission of two children to USC and two children to Georgetown.”
Those bribes included $325,000 sent to a Georgetown University tennis coach to aid Hodge’s eldest daughter and son in gaining entry as tennis recruits, and an additional $525,000 for another daughter and son to attend USC as soccer and football recruits, using fictional qualifications. Three of his children have already graduated from those schools, The New York Times reported.
Hodge is among a select group of parents in the case who committed their crimes “from perches at the apex of money and power in the United States,” where they enjoyed “extreme, almost unfathomable privilege,” prosecutors wrote in the memorandum.
“They only stopped because they either ran out of children,” wrote O’Connell, “or ran out of time before they got caught.”
Due to his active and prolific involvement in the scheme, prosecutors said, Hodge should have been sentenced to two years in prison.
In a letter to Gorton filed in advance of the hearing, Hodge said he was deeply remorseful.
“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,” wrote Hodge. “To those children, and their parents, I can only express my deepest regret.”
“I was driven by my own transformative educational experiences and my deep parental love,” he continued. “ While I have tried to live my life as a person of integrity and character, with strong moral grounding, my actions with Rick Singer have forced a personal reckoning for me, a need to acknowledge that I lost my way and set my better self aside as I sought to ensure for my children what had been so meaningful for me in my life. For that, I am deeply ashamed and remorseful.”
Hodge’s lawyers, in a memorandum on his behalf, accused prosecutors this week of engaging in a “single-minded obsession” to garner a heavy sentence for their client by twisting the facts of the case and sentencing guidelines and by repeatedly invoking his wealth and success as faults.
His attorneys asked for a much shorter—three months or less—prison sentence, citing his post-retirement role as a stay-at-home caregiver for his children who still live at home. Hodge’s attorney Brien O’Connor also reportedly spoke at length during Friday’s hearing about his client’s extensive philanthropic work and at least $30 million in charitable donations over the years.
On Friday, Judge Gorton was unmoved.
“There is no term in the English language that describes your conduct as well as the Yiddish term ‘Chutzpah,’” he said.