Parents of Northwestern student implicated in high-profile college admissions cheating scandal


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William “Rick” Singer leaves Boston Federal Court after being charged with racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and obstruction of justice on Tuesday, March 12, 2019 in Boston, Mass. Singer is among several charged in an alleged college admissions scam.

Catherine Kim, Campus Editor

The parents of a Northwestern student were charged earlier this week in a $25 million cheating and bribing scheme that facilitated college admissions for wealthy students.

Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez, who live in Atherton, California, were accused of paying for a proctor to help their two daughters cheat on college entrance exams and conspiring to bribe the head tennis coach at Georgetown University, according to federal prosecutors in Boston.

The elder daughter is a student at Georgetown, according to legal documents. The Henriquezes are listed in Northwestern records as parents of an NU student. The University, which is not named in the affidavit, would not confirm the student’s name.

Prosecutors charged 50 people Tuesday, making this the Justice Department’s largest college admissions prosecution. Of the 50 charges, 33 were against parents, who allegedly used their wealth illegally to get their children into prestigious universities like Stanford, Yale and the University of Southern California. The parents’ involvement is detailed in an affidavit submitted with the criminal complaint.

[Read the affidavit]

College athletic coaches were also indicted for accepting money in exchange for helping to admit unqualified students by lying about their athletic experience. The bribes were facilitated by William Singer, the owner of college counseling service The Key Worldwide. Singer allegedly received $25 million from parents over the span of about eight years, from 2011 to 2018.

Manuel Henriquez is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Hercules Capital Inc., a venture-debt company in Palo Alto, California. Shares dropped nearly 9 percent Tuesday, but regained close to 1 percent to close the day Wednesday.

Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez appeared in court Tuesday and were released on $500,000 bond. Earlier today, Hercules announced Henriquez would step down as its CEO.

Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez were accused of helping their youngest daughter cheat on her college admissions exam on two different occasions, according to the affidavit. Singer hired a proctor to instruct the daughter during her ACT exam in October 2016 at a test center in Houston, according to the affidavit. The proctor gave her the answers during the exam, the affidavit said, and she received a score of 30.

In lieu of payment for this service, Manuel Henriquez used his status as an alumnus and former member of one of the governing bodies of Northeastern University to guarantee the admission of another student using The Key Worldwide’s service, the affidavit states.

Around 2017, Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez again paid between $25,000 and $30,000 to facilitate cheating on three SAT subject tests and the ACT for their youngest daughter at a test center in West Hollywood, according to the affidavit. The youngest daughter again received answers to the test from the proctor, who was different person from the one in Houston. She received a score of 33 on the ACT and scores of 720, 740 and 770 on the SAT subject tests in math, Spanish and history, respectively, the affidavit states.

Prosecutors said students were not aware that parents were lying and cheating in many of the cases. None of the students were charged in the affidavit, which also excluded the names of the Henriquez daughters.

“The parents are the prime movers of this fraud,” Andrew Lelling, the United States attorney for the District of Massachusetts, said Tuesday during a news conference.

But documents say the proctor discussed the exam answers with the younger Henriquez daughter and another student during the exam, and instructed the two to answer different answers incorrectly to hide the cheating from the ACT.

In a statement, Northwestern said the school values integrity throughout the admissions process and takes allegations of falsification “very seriously.”

“If it is discovered that a student submitted false information in his or her application, it can result in a revocation of admission or, if enrolled, the student can be expelled,” the statement said.

The University also said it is disappointed to hear about the “undermining of the admissions process at numerous universities” and that it places an “enormous” amount of trust in ACT and SAT testing agencies.

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