Northwestern parents charged in college admissions scheme plead not guilty


Via Mercury News Youtube

Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez. The Northwestern parents pled not guilty to two charges related to the college admissions scandal.

Gabby Birenbaum and Alan Perez

The parents of a Northwestern student charged in the college admissions scheme have entered pleas of not guilty, according to court documents filed earlier this week.

In response to a superseding indictment, Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez waived their right to an arraignment hearing and entered the pleas. The two will now join 17 other wealthy parents, all of whom are facing a new second charge of money laundering conspiracy, taking their chances in defending themselves in court.

Howard Mintz, a spokesperson for the lawyer representing Manuel Henriquez, declined to comment Wednesday night. A lawyer for Elizabeth Henriquez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thirteen parents facing only the initial charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud have agreed to plead guilty. The Henriquezes were indicted on the two charges after they rejected a plea deal with the U.S. Attorney in Boston.

The Henriquezes and dozens of other parents were charged last month for participating in a far-reaching college admissions scandal. Prosecutors say the wealthy parents paid a college counseling service to set up phony proctors for college admission exams and bribe athletic coaches to save the students spots in incoming classes.

Though prosecutors say parents were the scheme’s principal actors, they are also reportedly looking at charges against students. Law360, a legal news service, reported that students of parents implicated in the scandal have received target letters informing them that they may be targets of an investigation, though students who knew of the activity but were under 18 at the time are in the clear.

The eldest Henriquez daughter and her mother “gloated” about cheating on a college admission exam, prosecutors say, while the younger daughter was fed answers by a proctor while taking the ACT. It is unclear whether either of them were minors during the alleged cheating.

In pleading not guilty, the Henriquezes are likely gearing up for a legal battle. Lawyers for other parents who have pled not guilty have sent letters to the court arguing that the parents should not be tried together as a group, according to Bloomberg. One couple, Gregory and Amy Colburn, are having a lawyer invoke a 1946 Supreme Court case to argue that parents’ lack of knowledge about the dealings of other involved parents precludes them from being involved in and charged with conspiracy.

Legal experts told the Los Angeles Times that parents may claim Rick Singer, the mastermind behind the college admissions scandal, manipulated their concern for their children into criminal activity — a risky proposition considering the mountain of evidence and wiretaps against the plaintiffs. The attorneys for Bill McGlashan, a parent who pled not guilty, will argue he only received legitimate college counseling services.

The Henriquezes have not indicated what their defense will be. If found guilty, they face up to 40 years in prison.

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