It was an easy detail to miss in this year’s abbreviated P-rade: Within a sea of orange patterned blazers for this year’s 25th-reunion class, the Class of 1993, an alumnus held a sign featuring a mugshot photo and the words, “I believed in Alexi Indris-Santana.”
Indris-Santana was admitted with the Class of 1992, but the University granted his request to defer admission for a year. A supposedly self-educated ranch hand from rural Utah, he arrived on campus in the fall of 1989, finding community as a student and a member of the track team. But he left Princeton in the middle of his sophomore year. A set of unusual circumstances surrounding his departure made headlines, in national papers and in PAW.
As it turned out, Alexi Indris-Santana was a pseudonym for James Arthur Hogue, a 29-year-old college dropout. He had deferred admission not to care for his ailing mother in Switzerland, as he had claimed, but to serve a prison sentence in Utah for possession of stolen property. The great deception was exposed at a track meet when an opposing runner recognized Hogue from an earlier stint posing as a 16-year old at Palo Alto High School.
PAW’s readers were baffled that the admission office had accepted Hogue with scant evidence to support his fantastic backstory. In one letter, an alum compared his daughter to James Hogue: both were student-athletes in the Class of 1993, but the former was “not a con artist.” Another alumnus wrote that the affair increased the bitterness he’d felt toward Princeton when it rejected his son.
Others were more compassionate. PAW published an appeal for sympathy from one of Hogue’s professors. In response, Robert McNamara ’29 concurred that his father, who had sponsored Hogue’s scholarship, “would hope that the positive aspects of Mr. Hogue’s Princeton experience, however obtained, could somehow — with the sympathy and encouragement of others — play a part in helping this bright and mixed-up young man to get on the right track for good.” Hogue’s friends on the track team were especially sympathetic. One of them, Peter Hessler ’92, told PAW that Hogue “was a very popular member of the team, and not just because he was a good runner.”
Alas, Hogue’s journey to “the right track” has not been a smooth one: According to a January 2018 Aspen Daily News story, he recently landed in Trinidad (Colo.) Correctional Facility following another theft conviction. He will be eligible for parole in October 2019.
The Strange Case of James Arthur Hogue
(From the April 3, 1991, issue of PAW)
After Princeton Borough Police arrested Alexi Indris-Santana ’93 at his Tuesday afternoon geology lab two months ago, no one was more surprised than the university’s admission officers. When Princeton first heard from Santana, a self-educated ranch hand from Utah with great potential for long-distance running, it believed it was getting a diamond in the rough. What it got was the cleverest imitation in Princeton history.
Santana, who claimed to devour great literature while tending cattle, had one of the shortest college applications on record: a list of the books he had read, authentic S.A.T. scores above 1,400, a reference from the Utah ranch, and newspaper clippings of track results that evidenced outstanding speed for an eighteen-year-old. On the basis of his application and an on-campus interview, Dean of Admission Anthony M. Cummings *80 admitted him in the spring of 1988.
Santana, fatherless, asked for a year’s deferral to care for his dying mother in Switzerland. The university assented, and a year later Santana, now calling himself lndris-Santana, matriculated with the Class of 1993. For two years no one found out that “Indris-Santana” was a pseudonym for James Arthur Hogue, a youthful twenty-nine-year-old college dropout who needed the deferral to serve ten months of a five-year prison sentence in Utah for possession of stolen property. On February 26, acting on information provided by the university, Princeton police confronted Hogue with his past and arrested him for breaking parole. The university voided his matriculation.
Red-faced university officials were hardly his first patsies: Hogue left a trail of deception stretching back at least to 1985, when he had briefly posed as a sixteenyear-old to enroll at Palo Alto High School in California. But the current dean of admission, Fred A. Hargadon, insists that his office will continue to consider applicants with unconventional backgrounds, albeit with a more critical eye.
Hogue had an answer ready for every question about his background, and his performance at Princeton appeared to vindicate the admission office’s gamble. He was a serious student with good grades and a heavy course load. His wide circle of friends was impressed by his outrageous tales of travels abroad and his odd habits, like sleeping on the floor. He even bickered successfully at Ivy Club. Ironically, it was his passion for competitive running that undid him. At the Harvard-Yale-Princeton track meet, on February 16, a senior at Yale recognized Hogue from his 1985 fraud and alerted authorities in California, who then notified Princeton.
As Santana, Hogue struck many as the embodiment of Rousseau’s noble savage. Even after his exposure, some friends insisted on recasting him as a modern-day Jean Valjean, the ex-con of Les Misérables who adopts a new identity to begin life anew. In reality, however, Hogue has left an eight-year string of embittered acquaintances and increasingly egregious brushes with the law.
James Arthur Hogue was born in 1959 in Kansas City, Kansas, where his parents still live. In high school, Hogue was the state champion in the two-mile run. He ran varsity track at the University of Wyoming from 1977 to 1979. In 1980, he enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin as a chemical-engineering major. It was in Austin that Rogue’s life appeared to unravel.
In the fall of 1982, his five years of N.C.A.A. eligibility to run expired. In January 1983, he was arrested for stealing a bicycle frame, and placed on three years’ probation. A year later, within a semester graduating, he dropped out of school and left Austin.
In October 1985, Hogue emerged in Palo Alto, posing as “Jay Mitchell Huntsman” a sixteen-year-old self-educated orphan from a Nevada commune. He tried to enroll in Palo Alto High School so that, he school authorities, he could qualify for admission to Stanford. While the school was investigating him, he ran unofficially in the Stanford Invitational Open cross-country race and posted the fastest time. A local sportswriter subsequently exposed his deception. Hogue remained in Palo Alto for another three months, until he was arrested for forging a check to buy contact lenses. He was not charged, on condition that he repay the shopkeeper he cheated. Instead, he skipped town.
For the next two years, he led a nomadic life, staying with friends in several western states. He worked summers as instructor at a cross-training clinic in Vail, Colorado, posing as Dr. James Hogue, Stanford Ph.D. in bioengineering. After an acquaintance from his Austin days fingered him in June 1987, he moved on to San Diego and stayed with David Tesch, a maker of mountain-bike frames. In October, he burglarized Tesch’s store of $20,000 in equipment.
Police finally caught up with Hogue in Utah in March 1988. They discovered much of the stolen property in a large storage locker he had rented. Police also found burglary tools, track trophies he had won in local high-school races, a pile of empty Rolex watch cases, and evidence that Hogue was corresponding with East Coast universities under the name Alexi Santana. The police never notified the universities, but at least one other—Brown—acknowledges having admitted him.
Hogue, now thirty-one, has been charged with five crimes, including theft by deception (his acceptance of $40,000 financial aid). Four of the five counts are indictable offenses, and Hogue is being held pending indictment. He could face up to ten years in prison before Utah calls in the rest of his five-year IOU. The N.C.A.A. is still looking into whether Hogue’s disqualified running result will force Princeton to forfeit any of the meets in which he ran.
Hogue, characteristically, has made no public statements, and is being held in lieu $25,000 bail. Barring an escape from jail, next opportunity to reinvent himself is probably years away.