Varsity Blues parent receives longest sentence to date

Douglas Hodge pleaded guilty in October for paying $850,000 between 2008 and 2015 to secure his children’s admissions to USC and Georgetown University as athletic recruits. (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

Former investment firm CEO Douglas Hodge received the longest sentence in the admissions scandal to date in Boston federal court Friday.

His penalty included nine months in prison with two years of supervised release, 500 hours of community service and a $750,000 fine for paying to have four of his children falsely designated as athletic recruits on their applications to elite colleges, including two to USC and two to Georgetown University.

In a memorandum filed Monday, prosecutors recommended a two-year sentence for Hodge, calling him “among the most culpable parents charged.” They said his repeated involvement in the scam and the fact that he wrote off part of the admissions payments as tax deductions rendered his infractions more serious.

Nathaniel Gorton, the federal judge presiding over the sentencing, denied Hodge’s request to serve part of his sentence at his home, Law360 reported. During the hearing, Gorton told Hodge his actions showed “chutzpah” and said that his actions and those of the other parents in the scandal led to a devaluation of American education as a whole, according to court reporter Chris Villani.

“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,” Gorton said.

The defense argued that Hodge deserved leniency for his lapse in judgment, citing charitable donations totaling $30 million and his establishment of a Cambodian orphanage as evidence of his philanthropic nature and stated that, unlike other parents for whom the government recommended penalties exceeding sentencing guidelines, Hodge did not involve his children in the scheme.

Hodge pleaded guilty in October to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering for paying Operation Varsity Blues organizer William “Rick” Singer $850,000 over the course of seven years to arrange for four of his children’s college admissions. 

Hodge’s oldest child, who Singer marked as a tennis recruit on her Georgetown application in 2008, was the first incidence of Singer’s “side door” method documented in the college admissions case. Hodge attempted to fraudulently secure his fifth child’s admission to Loyola Marymount University in 2018, but Singer had already begun cooperating with federal investigators.

Prior to Friday’s sentencing, the longest sentence in the admissions case was that of USC alumnus Toby Macfarlane, who will serve six months in prison and pay a $150,000 fine for paying to get his two children admitted to the University as athletic recruits.