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Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs sentenced to 5 months imprisonment in college admissions scam

Janavs paid $100,000 to cheat on both her daughters ACT tests, and paid $200,000 to have one of her daughters admitted to USC as a fake beach volley ball recruit
Credit: AP
Michelle Janavs arrives at federal court, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, in Boston, for sentencing in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

CALIFORNIA, USA — Former food company executive Michelle Janavs was sentenced to five months in prison Tuesday for paying bribes in the college admissions scam, the US Attorney's Office in Massachusetts said.

Janavs, whose family invented Hot Pockets, paid the scheme's mastermind, Rick Singer, $100,000 to cheat on two of her daughters' ACTs, and agreed to pay $200,000 to have one of the daughters admitted to University of Southern California as a "fake beach volleyball recruit," according to a sentencing memorandum.

Janavs, 49, was one of four defendants who are "far and away the most culpable parents" in the admissions scandal, the memorandum states. Janavs and the three others are "repeat players, who engaged in the conspiracy again and again, over years."

Janavs in October pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

She was also ordered to pay a $250,000 fine and to serve two years of supervised release after prison, said Liz McCarthy, spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office in Massachusetts.

The government had recommended a 21-month sentence for Janavs. John Littrell, her attorney, said the actual sentence "reflects that she's a profoundly good person."

Janavs understands the consequences of the crime on others, "But this crime does not define who she is," Littrell told reporters Tuesday. "Michelle's gonna be defined by what she's done the rest of her life, and she has dedicated decades of her life to helping exactly the types of kids who were harmed in this case."

Tuesday's sentencing was the second in as many days in the enormous admissions scheme that's resulted in 50 defendants in six states, including actresses, CEOs and university coaches, among others.

On Monday, a former tennis coach at University of Texas at Austin, Michael Center, was sentenced to six months in prison after accepting $100,000 in bribes.

Janavs paid Singer $50,000 in 2017 to cheat on her older daughter's ACT exam, according to the memorandum. A co-conspirator corrected the daughter's answers when she took the test at a high school in West Hollywood, California.

In February 2019, Janavs paid Singer $50,000 to cheat on a second daughter's ACT exam, the memo said.

She also agreed in 2018 to pay $200,000 to get her older daughter into USC as a purported beach volleyball recruit, As part of that agreement, Janavs made a $50,000 payment to the USC Women's Volleyball from her family's charitable foundation account, but she was arrested before she made the full payment, according to the US Attorney's Office.

The other three "most culpable" named in the memorandum are Douglas Hodge, former chief executive officer of Pacific Investment management Company (PIMCO), one of the world's largest money managers, and Elizabeth and Manuel Henriquez.

Hodge was sentenced to nine months in prison earlier this month for using fraud and bribes to try to get five of his children into exclusive colleges as fake athletic recruits.

Manuel Henriquez, a former Hercules Capital CEO, and his wife, Elizabeth, also "engaged Singer five times to cheat on his two children's college entrance exams, and an additional time to secure his child's admission to Georgetown," according to the memorandum. They have not yet been sentenced.