CHICAGO (CBS) – A student currently enrolled at Northwestern University has been caught up in a nationwide college cheating scandal.
The student’s parents, Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez, planned to pay as much as $80,000 to a college prep company to help their daughter cheat twice on the ACT and on three SAT subject tests, according to a federal complaint unsealed on Tuesday. Rick Singer, founder of a college prep company called The Key, pleaded guilty in the scheme on Tuesday and has been cooperating with authorities.
The student is enrolled as a freshman at the Evanston campus, according to the school directory. CBS Chicago is withholding her name because she has not been charged. A Northwestern spokesman, Jon Yates, said the school “takes allegations of falsification very seriously. The University does not comment on specific applicants for admission or current students.” However, students who submit false information can be expelled, Yates said.
The Henriquezes, of Atherton, Calif., are among dozens of individuals involved in the nationwide conspiracy to facilitate cheating on college entrance exams and the admission of students to elite universities as purported athletic recruits.
According to the federal complaint, the Henriquezes paid $50,000 in an arrangement to have their daughter fly to Houston to take the ACT. That money was split among Singer and several other individuals, including the proctor, who provided answers.
Elizabeth Henriquez falsely told a high school counselor that the family had to be in Houston on Oct. 22, 2016, the date her daughter was to take the test, according to charging documents.
A cooperating witness, who ran another college prep testing company in Florida, told investigators that he proctored the exam in Houston and discussed answers with the Henriquezes’ daughter and another student. The daughter received a 30 out of a possible 36 on the test.
According to the complaint, the Henriquez family paid another $25,000 to $30,000 to have their daughter cheat on a second ACT and three SAT subject tests, often taken by top students applying to elite schools. It was not clear why the student took the ACT again. However, the average ACT score at Northwestern is between 32-34, according to online sources. The U.S. Department of Education says the acceptance rate is 13 percent.
In mid-June of 2017, a proctor administered the tests over two weekends in West Hollywood, Calif. The proctor admitted to providing answers to certain exam questions and was paid thousands of dollars, according to investigators. On the second test, the Henriquezes’ daughter scored a 33 on the ACT and 720 (math), 740 (Spanish) and 770 (history) out of 800 on the three SAT subject tests.
Northwestern’s Yates said Northwestern “put an enormous amount of trust in the ACT and SAT testing agencies. We rely on their safeguards and protocols to ensure there is integrity in the results submitted by applicants for admission.”
At one point during the alleged cheating arrangement, Manuel Henriquez received a $75,000 credit for using his clout as a Northeastern University alum to get another student admitted to the school, investigators say. The family of that student allegedly paid $250,000 to Singer’s company to help facilitate the admission to the Boston institution.
As part of his cooperation with law enforcement, Singer recorded conversations with the Henriquezes about the alleged cheating arrangement. During those conversations, Singer assured Elizabeth Henriquez that there “was not paper trail of money.” Later, Manuel Henriquez told Singer that if “anybody calls me, the response is, I’m not gonna comment regarding my daughter’s Houston issue.”
The Henriquezes also arranged a cheating scheme for their older daughter and allegedly bribed Georgetown tennis coach Gordon Ernst to designate their daughter as a recruit to help her with admissions, according to the complaint.
Manuel Henriquez made a fortune in finance and on Wednesday reportedly stepped aside as chairman and CEO of Hercules Capital.