Manuel Henriquez, the former CEO of a Palo Alto-based venture capital firm, was sentenced Wednesday to six months in prison for paying more than $500,000 in a national admissions scam that involved more than 50 parents, sports staff and test proctors, federal prosecutors said. He helped his daughters get admitted to college by ensuring they did well on college entrance exams five times.
Henriquez, 56, of Atherton pleaded guilty last year to a charge of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud, plus an additional charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. He founded Hercules Capital and stepped down as CEO when federal indictments in the college admissions scandal were announced in March 2019.
The indictments claimed the parents paid large sums of money to education consultant Rick Singer, who used the funds to bribe universities into guaranteeing their children admission, mostly as athletic recruits despite the applicants having little to no experience in the sport. The funds were disguised as donations to Singer's fake nonprofit organization, The Key Worldwide Foundation. Oftentimes, parents worked with Singer to have test proctors correct their student's answers on the SAT or ACT college entrance exams.
In June 2015, Henriquez paid Singer to have a third party correct his older daughter's answers on SAT II subject tests and four months later on a SAT exam, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Henriquez continued seeking Singer's services for his youngest daughter three times between 2016 and 2017 by paying for a third party to correct tests she took in Los Angeles and Houston, prosecutors said.
The Atherton resident also paid $400,000 to help his daughter become a tennis recruit at Georgetown University despite her having no competitive experience in the sport, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
In a July 21 letter to U.S. District Court Judge Nathaniel Gorton, Henriquez expressed "regrets, shame, sorrow and remorse" for his actions. "I never imagined being called a 'common thief,' but here I stand before you, humiliated and destroyed.
"I fully realize and acknowledge that what I have done was wrong, illegal, unfair and hurtful, especially to the many honest college applicant students and parents," Henriquez wote. "I am ashamed of my actions of putting myself and family over all the children and parents who played by the rules."
In admitting to his wrongdoings, Henriquez also said losing control over his company was "like losing my third child, and I lost that along with my professional reputation and integrity."
In addition to the prison sentence, Gorton ordered Henriquez to perform 200 hours of community service while under two years of supervised release and to pay a $200,000 fine.
Prosecutors had requested Henriquez be sentenced to five months in prison (a reduction from an earlier petition of 18 months); two years of supervised release; 250 hours of community service; and a $150,000 fine.
In a July 22 sentencing memorandum, prosecutors stated that Henriquez and his wife, Elizabeth Henriquez, conspired with Singer to cheat on the exams five times, the most instances compared to other parents involved in the scam.
On Jan. 27, 2019, less than two months before they were indicted, in cooperation with the federal investigation, Singer visited the couple's home, where Manuel Henriquez verified that Singer helped them cheat on the tests and worked to cover up the fraud.
Elizabeth Henriquez was sentenced on March 31 to seven months in prison, two years of supervised release, 300 hours of community service and a $200,000 fine.
Manuel Henriquez is the 28th parent who pleaded guilty and the 20th parent sentenced in the scandal, according to prosecutors.