A former Silicon Valley hedge fund boss will plead guilty, legal filings show, in the nationwide college admissions cheating scam that has ensnared the rich and famous, enraged the public, and sparked heated debates about the role of money in higher education.
Manuel Henriquez, 56, the former head of Hercules Capital in Palo Alto, Calif., will enter his plea Monday in US District Court in Boston, according to a notice filed Friday in his case. He was charged in an April superseding indictment with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, as well as money laundering conspiracy.
Henriquez, a former member of the now-defunct Northeastern University Corporation, allegedly recommended an applicant for admission to the Boston school as part of the scheme. A spokesman for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, the firm representing Henriquez, said his attorneys weren’t available to comment Friday.
Also Friday, another parent who pleaded guilty in the scam, Robert Flaxman, 62, of Laguna Beach, Calif., was sentenced to one month in prison, prosecutors said. He was the 10th parent sentenced in the case.
Henriquez and his wife, Elizabeth, are two of the dozens of defendants charged in the scam, in which wealthy parents, including Hollywood actors, cut checks to admitted ringleader William “Rick” Singer to have their children falsely designated as athletic recruits at selective schools, or to facilitate cheating on their children’s ACT and SAT exams.
Singer has pleaded guilty to running the scam and awaits sentencing. He cooperated with the FBI in the investigation and secretly recorded phone calls with parents.
Court records allege the Henriquezes agreed in fall 2015 to pay Singer $25,000 to have a corrupt SAT proctor provide test answers to their oldest daughter. In addition, prosecutors say, the couple agreed to pay Singer $400,000 for their daughter’s “admission to Georgetown as a purported tennis recruit.” The daughter was offered admission to Georgetown in the spring of 2016, records show.
The Henriquezes allegedly engaged in similar malfeasance when their younger daughter applied to colleges, according to legal filings. In 2017, the indictment said, the couple paid Singer at least $25,000 to pad their younger daughter’s SAT and ACT scores.
The tab for that scam was initially set at $75,000, but Singer told investigators that Manuel Henriquez instead agreed to use his sway at Northeastern to help Singer get an applicant accepted.
Manuel Henriquez “in an e-mail to a senior development officer at Northeastern University” described Singer’s client as an “excellent candidate for the College of Social Sciences and Humanities,” an affidavit said.
The filing added that Manuel Henriquez “repeatedly followed up with Northeastern officials in Boston about the applicant’s candidacy. The student was ultimately admitted to Northeastern. The applicant’s parents paid [Singer] $250,000 after he was admitted.”
Renata Nyul, a Northeastern spokeswoman, confirmed via e-mail Friday that Manuel Henriquez had previously been a member of the Northeastern Corporation, “which no longer exists.”
Nyul also pushed back on the suggestion that Henriquez had pull at Northeastern.
“Just because Henriquez said he had influence on admissions decisions doesn’t mean he did,” Nyul said in an e-mail. “While it is not uncommon for alumni and others to recommend applicants for consideration, Northeastern evaluates each applicant on the merits. Our admissions process includes extensive safeguards and protocols designed to prevent improprieties. We are not aware of any impropriety in connection with any Northeastern admissions decision.”
Hercules Capital, meanwhile, announced shortly after Manuel Henriquez’s March arrest that he had “voluntarily stepped aside as chairman and chief executive officer” but would “continue as a member of the company’s board and an adviser to the company.”
Elizabeth Henriquez faces the same charges as her husband, records show, and her case remains pending.
Word of Manuel Henriquez’s expected guilty plea came one day after federal authorities informed the court that Felicity Huffman, the “Desperate Housewives” star who also won critical praise for her performance in the film “Transamerica,” had paid a $30,000 fine for her role in the college scandal.
Huffman is serving a 14-day prison term for paying a bribe to boost her daughter’s SAT score. She’ll regain her freedom on Oct. 27, records show.