St. George police detective Matt Jacobson immediately recognized the name Alexi Santana when a newspaper reporter telephoned him Tuesday.
Nearly three years ago, the detective arrested the man after discovering a storage shed full of stolen bicycles. The impostor since then has pulled off an elaborate scheme of lies and deception.For the past three years, James Arthur Hogue, 31, has fooled Princeton University officials into admitting him to the New Jersey school and allowing him to compete in track and field.
But the scam came to a crashing halt Tuesday. Hogue was pulled out of a class at Princeton and arrested on a fugitive warrant from Utah.
He is being held by the Princeton Borough Police Department awaiting extradition to Utah, where the Board of Pardons will decide whether to send him back to the Utah State Prison, where he once served time on a stolen-property charge.
Princeton officials kicked him out of school this week and plan to wipe out any record of his presence there. And they are considering pressing criminal charges against him.
Until this week, everyone at Princeton knew Hogue as 20-year-old Alexi Indris Santana from Midvale. His latest scam began in January 1988, when Hogue wrote to several Ivy League schools.
As Santana, the then-28-year-old Hogue claimed he was 17, was self-taught and was interested in attending college. He also said that he was working as a cowboy on a ranch in Utah. He claimed he had lived in Switzerland, Costa Rica, Jamaica and Morocco.
"From what I can piece together from his file, the school was very intrigued by him," said Fred Hargadon, Princeton dean of admissions.
To evaluate him, Princeton asked Hogue to take the SAT (achievement test) and submit a list of the books he had read and their subject areas. He scored more than 1,400 on the SAT, which is a very high score, and, Hargadon said, the reading list was "quite impressive."
Hogue also indicated that he would be interested in running track. Princeton track coach Larry Ellis began to correspond with Hogue by mail, asking for proof of Hogue's skill. Hogue sent Ellis several newspaper clippings listing the times that he, as Santana, actually ran in age-group events. The times were exceptional for an untrained runner.
"From his times, he was the best distance runner I'd ever recruited," said Ellis, who was the U.S. Olympic men's track coach in 1984. "It was early to talk about Olympic potential, but he definitely had college star potential if the times and age were correct."
All of this led to Princeton accepting Hogue in April 1988. But unbeknownst to the university, Hogue had been arrested the month before in St. George and charged with possessing stolen property.
When Hogue lived in Utah, police said, he fixed bicycles from a storage shed he was renting in St. George. One of his customers went to the police after noticing something wasn't quite right.
"He noticed on the wall of the storage shed some bikes he knew were of a limited edition," explained Jacobson. "Nobody has five of those frames."
Detectives determined the bikes were stolen from a mountain bike framemaker in California who had befriended Hogue, and they obtained a search warrant. Hogue was subsequently arrested.
Jacobson told the Deseret News he remembers finding college-application forms and other papers filled out under the name "Alexi Santana" when he and other officers searched the storage shed.
"That's one of those names you don't forget," the detective said. "I just remember the name being everywhere."
Jacobson also remembers seeing newspaper clippings about races Santana had run and also remembers plaques honoring Santana for races he had won against teenagers.
"A person who could try and pass himself off as somebody younger to take the trophy for that age group. . . . That seems pretty low to me. I just don't see how anybody can do that," he said, explaining that Hogue looks much younger than his age.
The detective said he's investigated a lot of crimes during his career, but this is one he says he can't understand.
One month after Princeton accepted Hogue using the Santana name, he was sentenced to the Utah State Prison. He wrote to Princeton asking that his entrance be deferred for one year, claiming that his mother was suffering with leukemia in Switzerland and that he wanted to spend time with her.
Princeton agreed. After he was paroled from prison on March 28, 1989, Hogue contacted Ellis and told him he was ready to come to Princeton. Hogue showed up at the school around June and began classes in fall 1989, Ellis said.
Ellis and students at Princeton said Hogue was a successful student, taking a heavy classload every semester and running with relative success in both cross-country and track. He specialized in the 5,000-meter race in track. However, injuries prevented Hogue from reaching his potential, Ellis said.
"I'm really disappointed and hurt about the lies," said the Princeton coach. "We were trying to do anything we could to help him. It really hurts."
After Hogue's arrest this week, Princeton officials and classmates received yet another shock. Hogue had masterminded a similar scheme before - twice.
In 1985, students befriended Hogue when he enrolled at Palo Alto High School using the name of a young boy who died in infancy. He made up a story that has certain parallels to the story he used at Princeton. A year later, he convinced people in Colorado that he held a doctorate in bioengineering from Stanford.
In fall 1985, Hogue said he was Jay Mitchell Huntsman and enrolled at the high school. Among other things, he claimed to be 16, the orphan of parents who had been killed in Bolivia. He said he had been reared at a commune in Nevada, had been tutored there and had come to Palo Alto to get a formal education.
And Hogue wanted to compete in cross-country. Although Palo Alto High would not make him eligible until they could locate a birth certificate or other verification of age, Hogue was allowed to run unofficially.
Claiming that he had taught himself to run - a claim he would later repeat at Princeton - Hogue won the prestigious high school division of the Stanford Invitational cross country meet on Oct. 7, 1985. He was hailed as a budding star.
But Hogue's story quickly began to unravel. After checking records in San Diego, the Peninsula Times Tribune discovered that the real Jay Mitchell Huntsman died of pneumonia only three days after being born in 1969. The real Huntsman's parents were still alive, residing in Utah.
Hogue, who graduated as a record-setting runner from Washington High School in Kansas City in 1977, attended and competed in cross country at the University of Wyoming for two years in the late 1970s. He also attended colleges in Texas, studying chemical engineering.
After the story broke, Hogue left Palo Alto High, but his saga wasn't over. Hogue ended up in Colorado in 1986. According to a story published in 1988 by the San Jose Mercury News, Hogue began to pass himself off as Dr. James Hogue, with a Stanford doctorate in bioengineering. Based on his impressive ability to run and his word, he was hired in May 1986 to teach at a cross-training clinic. The clinic featured other respected names in running, bicycling and swimming.
If not for a chance meeting with a former Palo Alto classmate at a track meet between Princeton, Yale and Harvard on Feb. 16, Hogue might still be on his way to a degree.
"I'll never forget his face and that bowl haircut," said Yale senior Renee Pacheco. In 1985, she was a junior at Palo Alto High.
"I walked right up to him. I'm surprised he didn't recognize me," she said. "I wanted to just scream at him, but then I thought better of it."
Pacheco called her old high school track coach, who called a local reporter for the Palo Alto paper, the Peninsula Times Tribune. The reporter started digging and made a call to Princeton and the police.
Hogue's family in Kansas City, Kan., was stunned by the news of their son's apparent lies.
"I haven't talked to him in at least a couple of years," said Hogue's father, Eugene, in an unsettled tone. "He called one time to say he was all right, but that was a long time ago. I had no idea what he was doing."
Princeton officials are considering legal action to get back the financial aid Hogue received. If he is extradited, Utah's Board of Pardons will decide whether he should go back to prison for violating his parole and serve the rest of his zero to five-year sentence.