BOSTON, MASS. - Prosecutors are seeking nearly two years in prison for an heiress to the Hot Pockets microwavable snack fortune who agreed to pay $300,000 to cheat the college admissions process for her daughters in a nationwide bribery scheme.
Michelle Janavs, whose family developed Hot Pockets before selling their company, will be sentenced Tuesday in Boston federal court for her role in the scandal that has embroiled elite universities across the country.
Janavs admitted to paying the consultant at the center of the scheme, Rick Singer, $100,000 to have a proctor correct her daughters' ACT exam answers. She also agreed to pay $200,000 to have one of her daughters labeled as a fake beach volleyball recruit at the University of Southern California but she was arrested before the girl was formally admitted, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors are asking for 21 months in prison, calling her one of the "most culpable parents" charged in the case. They note in court documents that she engaged in the scheme multiple times and waited to accept responsibility until months after she was arrested.
Unlike other parents who have been sentenced so far, Janavs was also hit with an additional charge of money laundering conspiracy, which prosecutors tacked on for parents who didn't quickly plead guilty.
Janavs' lawyers portrayed her in court documents as a dedicated mother and philanthropist who fell for Singer's "manipulative sales tactics'' because of the love for her children and stress caused by the hyper-competitive college admissions process. Janavs' lawyers say she has already been punished enough and are urging the judge not to send her to prison.
"The fallout from Michelle's actions stand as a beacon to others that illegal shortcuts are a recipe for disaster, regardless of the punishment the court imposes on Michelle," her lawyers wrote.
Janavs is among nearly two dozen prominent parents who have pleaded guilty in the case. Others include "Desperate Housewives'' star Felicity Huffman, who was sentenced to two weeks in prison for paying $15,000 to have a proctor correct her daughter's SAT answers.
Those fighting the charges include "Full House'' actress Lori Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, who are accused of paying $500,000 to get their daughters into the University of Southern California.