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Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez, an Atherton couple who prosecutors say spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to cheat and bribe their daughters’ way into Georgetown, have both changed their plea to guilty, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts confirmed Monday.
The New York Times reports that “prosecutors gave some parents deadlines of Monday or a few days before to agree to plead guilty, or risk facing a new (federal bribery) charge that had the potential to bring a longer sentence.”
According to court filings, Manuel Henriquez, the co-founder of Hercules Capital, and his wife Elizabeth conspired to bribe Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst. As part of the scheme to get one daughter into the school, the Henriquezes allegedly paid Ernst to recruit her as a top tennis talent. Prosecutors say that the girl’s application falsely said she was a club tennis player who was ranked in the top 50 by the United States Tennis Association.
In addition, court filings state the family paid $25,000 for the scam’s orchestrator, Rick Singer, to hire a private proctor to administer the daughter’s SAT exam. Singer has admitted that his private proctors changed test answers to improve scores, either with or without the student’s knowledge.
“After the exam, he ‘gloated’ with Elizabeth Henriquez and her daughter about the fact that they had cheated and gotten away with it,” a court affidavit reads.
Ernst, who was investigated by Georgetown in 2017 for recruiting “irregularities,” was charged with racketeering as part of the sweeping college admissions scandal. Prosecutors say he accepted $2.7 million in bribes from parents around the nation. He resigned from Georgetown in 2018.
According to prosecutors, after the Henriquezes’ older daughter got into Georgetown, they then paid more money to Singer to get their younger daughter in as well.
Manuel Henriquez stepped down from Hercules Capital after the allegations were made public earlier this year.
Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez initially intended to fight the charges, but in the last week, both decided to change their pleas to guilty. In recent weeks, prison sentences have been handed down to many parents in the “Varsity Blues” scandal. Most have received a few weeks, although the longest sentence was five months.
That went to Agustin Huneeus Jr., a former Napa vintner. He admitted he paid over $300,000 to get his daughter into USC as a fake water polo recruit.
Katie Dowd is an SFGATE Senior Digital Editor. Contact: email@example.com | Twitter: @katiedowd
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