Marathon Hoax: Track Star, Liar, Ex-Princeton Student In Jail

PRINCETON, N.J. - He told them he hadn't been in a schoolroom since kindergarten but had learned to read under the Arizona stars, working as a cowboy with a horse named Good Enough.

Princeton University admissions officials liked his unusual upbringing - and the fact that he could run like the wind. So they accepted Alexi Indris-Santana. He started school in the fall of 1989 and joined the track team.

On Tuesday three plain-clothes police officers walked into Santana's geology class and asked him if he was James Arthur Hogue, a 31-year-old graduate of Washington High in Kansas City, Kan., wanted by Utah police for violating his parole on a stolen-property charge.

Hogue had done this before. Six years ago, he passed himself off as an orphaned California high-school student and ran the fastest time in a big track meet. Later, he played a Ph.D. in bioengineering from Stanford and a sports-clinic coach.

He was born in 1959, a quiet boy with three sisters. He was a track star at Washington High School and graduated in 1977.

After high school, Hogue ran track for the University of Wyoming for two years before beginning a nomadic life. In 1985, he showed up in Palo Alto, Calif., and told high-school officials he was Jay Mitchell Huntsman, age 16.

While school officials started to check out his story, Hogue, then 26, entered the Stanford Invitational track and field meet for high-school students and clocked the fastest time.

But within days after Hogue started classes, police discovered that records showed Jay Mitchell Huntsman had been born in 1959 but died two days after birth. Hogue withdrew from school, and authorities did not press charges.

A year later, boasting of a Stanford doctorate, he was hired to coach at a Colorado sports clinic and worked with world-class marathon runners.

Later, he helped friends who owned a bicycle shop. In 1987, he helped himself to dozens of their bicycle frames, was arrested and pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property. He was sentenced to five years and served nine months before being paroled from Utah State Prison in March 1989.

Hogue applied at Princeton in the fall of 1988. Admissions officials had him take the Scholastic Aptitude Test and accepted him.

``People with nontraditional backgrounds contribute to the campus,'' university spokesman Justin Harmon explained.

Though accepted for the fall of 1988, Hogue deferred admission for a year, saying he had to care for his sick mother. But he was serving time.

After his release, Hogue went to Princeton. A generous financial-aid package was waiting.

His former roommate, Ben Richardson, said Hogue kept to himself and usually was in their dorm rooms only to sleep, change clothes and study. He ate alone in the dining hall but seemed to get along with women on campus, sometimes entertaining a dozen at once in his dorm room with glasses of wine.

``He was odd,'' Richardson said. ``He said, `I'm not here to learn anything. I already know a lot. I already know more than a lot of professors here. I'm just here to find a wife.' He said it like a joke. But he said it like a joke he meant.''

That is the closest anyone can come to a motive for Hogue's hoax.

On Feb. 16, Princeton ran in a meet against Yale and Harvard in New Haven, Conn., and a Yale senior named Renee Pacheco was there.

She had been a junior at Palo Alto High in 1985. She recognized Hogue and called her old high-school track coach, who called a newspaper reporter. The reporter began digging and called Princeton.

University officials quickly said Hogue's fraudulent application meant his enrollment was void and that they were considering legal action to get back the financial aid Hogue had received.

Hogue was in the Princeton Borough police lock-up awaiting word from Utah authorities.

He told his interviewer, ``If anyone asks, I'll tell them I'm from Princeton.''