Prison sentence for 'Hot Pockets' heiress convicted in college admissions scandal delayed amid coronavirus

Judge denies bid for house arrest but won't have surrender this month, as originally scheduled.
Image: Michelle Janavs
Michelle Janavs arrives at the federal courthouse before being sentenced in connection with a nationwide college admissions cheating scheme in Boston, Mass., on Feb. 25, 2020.Amanda Sabga / Reuters file

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By David K. Li

Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs, ensnared in the sweeping college-admissions scandal, had her prison sentence — set to begin next week — delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Janavs, sentenced to five months behind bars for paying a fixer to get her daughters into the University of Southern California, had been ordered to surrender on Thursday but now may remain free until at least June 30, according to U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton.

But the judge ruled against Janavs' bid to have her entire sentence served under house arrest.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented and continually evolving cause of concern and the Court is cognizant of the particular transmission risk in penitentiary facilities," Gorton wrote in a ruling handed down Thursday.

However, "this judge will not forfeit his obligation to impose a sentence that is warranted by a defendant's criminal conduct."

Gorton left the door open for another delay if the outbreak hasn't improved by this summer.

“If the public health crisis has not abated by the time of the extended report date, the court will entertain further motions,” the federal judge in Boston wrote.

Janavs, whose family developed the wildly popular microwaveable snack before selling their company, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud in the far-reaching college admissions scandal.

The Newport Beach, California, resident admitted that she pledged $300,000 to "Operation Varsity Blues" fixer Rick Singer for help in fraudulently boosting college qualifications of her two daughters.

Another "Varsity Blues" offender, investment executive Douglas Hodge, had been ordered to report to prison on Monday to begin nine months behind bars. He too was denied house arrest by Gorton, but then had his sentence delayed as well.

Hodge paid $850,000 in bribes from 2008 until 2012 to get four of his children into USC and Georgetown University as fake athletic recruits, prosecutors said.