CHICAGO (CBS) — Two parents accused of helping their daughter cheat her way into Northwestern University pleaded guilty Monday in the national college admissions scam.
Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez of Atherton, California, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on Monday. They are accused of paying $400,000 in bribes to get one daughter into Georgetown University, and helping two other daughters cheat on entrance exams.
One of those daughters ended up attending Northwestern. In her case, a federal complaint claimed her parents 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.
The couple will be sentenced in March.
The Henriquezes 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.
Actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were among those who were charged in the scandal. Huffman is now serving 14 days in prison for paying to have her daughter’s SAT scores changed, while Loughlin and her husband, Mossimo Giannulli, have pleaded not guilty to paying bribes to get their daughters into college.
Of the 10 parents sentenced so far in the admissions scandal – dubbed Operation Varsity Blues – nine got prison time. Another 15 are fighting the charges.
Rick Singer, founder of a college prep company called The Key, pleaded guilty in the scheme in March and has been cooperating with authorities.
According to the federal complaint against them, the Henriquezes paid $50,000 in an arrangement to have their daughter who ended up at Northwestern 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, Califorina. 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 spokesman Jon 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.”
Manuel Henriquez made a fortune in finance and on Wednesday reportedly stepped aside as chairman and chief executive officer of Hercules Capital.