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Former NU Corporation member accused of peddling influence to get student admitted

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Former NU Corporation member accused of peddling influence to get student admitted

An NU alum is among those charged by the Department of Justice Tuesday as part of the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted.

An NU alum is among those charged by the Department of Justice Tuesday as part of the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted.

File photo by Dylan Shen

An NU alum is among those charged by the Department of Justice Tuesday as part of the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted.

File photo by Dylan Shen

File photo by Dylan Shen

An NU alum is among those charged by the Department of Justice Tuesday as part of the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted.

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A former member of a Northeastern oversight group faces federal fraud charges as part of an ongoing college admissions scandal. He allegedly used his influence to help a student gain admission to NU and paid more than $400,000 in bribes to help get his daughters into college, per U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling.

Court documents state that Manuel A. Henriquez, 55, made these transactions in exchange for illegitimately enhancing his two daughters’ college admission credentials, including tampering with their ACT and SAT exams and bribing the head tennis coach at Georgetown University.

These allegations are among many made by the Department of Justice Tuesday when 50 people were charged as part of the largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted. A Northeastern spokesperson said the university was never aware of any impropriety in its application or admission process.

Henriquez, a 1987 Northeastern graduate who later worked with the now defunct Northeastern University Corporation, and his wife Elizabeth Henriquez, 56, are being charged with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. 

A spokesperson from Hercules Capital, of which Manuel Henriquez is the CEO, declined to comment and said Manuel Henriquez would not be available for comment.

Manuel Henriquez allegedly sent a series of emails to Northeastern admissions recommending a student in lieu of a cash payment for services from a cooperating witness, who allegedly helped his two daughters cheat on the SAT and ACT. A spokesperson with the U.S. Attorney’s office confirmed to The News that the witness, listed as Cooperating Witness 1, or CW-1, in the criminal complaint, is William “Rick” Singer, 58.

Singer is the owner of Edge College & Career Network LLC, also known as The Key, a for-profit business that provides college counseling services, and its nonprofit wing, the Key Worldwide Foundation, a charity which he used to wire money to and from clients. On Tuesday, Singer plead guilty to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering, tax conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Manuel Henriquez allegedly paid Singer $25,000 to help his older daughter cheat on her SAT. In October 2015, the criminal complaint says Singer hired a proctor — listed as Cooperating Witness 2, or CW-2 — to fly to Henriquez’s older daughter’s school and sit side-by-side with her, correcting her answers as she took the SAT.

The same proctor flew to Houston the following year to assist the Henriquezes’ younger daughter and another student. The proctor directed the two students to answer different questions incorrectly to avoid suspicion. Manuel Henriquez allegedly paid Singer between $25,000 to $30,000 for this instance of tampering. In lieu of charging Henriquez another $75,000, Singer asked him to pay by helping a student gain admission to NU.

The applicant Manuel Henriquez recommended, who is unnamed, was another of Singer’s clients.

According to court documents, Manuel Henriquez sent an email to Singer in October 2016 after sending an initial recommendation email to Northeastern. In the email, Henriquez said, “Just confirmed with the university, have [the applicant] file [early decision] normal channels to get into the systems and make sure his application is complete. Then the folks I connected will flag it.”

Henriquez followed up with Northeastern officials repeatedly, according to court documents, and the unnamed student was eventually admitted to Northeastern. Afterward, the student’s family paid Singer $250,000, per court documents.

Additionally, the Henriquezes allegedly paid $400,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation in May 2016. In exchange, Singer allegedly paid the head tennis coach at Georgetown University $950,000 to designate the older daughter and others as recruited athletes. Henriquez’s daughter was accepted in 2015. The coach, Gordon Ernst, 52, is no longer employed by Georgetown and was charged with racketeering conspiracy.

According to the criminal complaint, Elizabeth Henriquez and Singer discussed an ongoing IRS audit in a phone conversation Singer recorded as part of his cooperation with investigators in January 2019. Singer assured Henriquez that he would not tell the IRS about the exam fraud. He also referred to “large sums of money” the Henriquezes paid to the Key Worldwide Foundation, which Elizabeth Henriquez said were “for all the good deeds that you do.”

In another conversation, the Henriquezes discussed the cover story for their younger daughter’s ACT fraud — the one for which they exchanged Manuel’s influence. The following is an excerpt from the transcript provided in the criminal complaint.

M. HENRIQUEZ: Okay. So why did [my daughter] do the test there [Houston]? So we gotta get into that story.

CW-1 [Singer] : So– so lemme, go into that. So you’re right. That’s– that’s part of it, right? So Niki [one of the bribed test administrators] said to me, “Don’t worry about it. You know, these are the outta-state kids. Essentially, there’s nowhere where anybody knows–” Because in my books, it doesn’t show that there was any money paid for [CW-2] helping [your daughter] do the test. Okay? So there’s nothing– Because we did the deal with [the Northeastern applicant]. So [it] doesn’t show anything at all, in our foundation or anything, just so you know.

E. HENRIQUEZ: So there’s no paper trail of money?

CW-1: There’s no paper trail of money. Okay? ‘Cause remember we did that? And you helped? So.

M. HENRIQUEZ: Right.

The Justice Department is not charging any students with a crime, but Lelling said his office is still considering that option.

“The parents, the other defendants, are clearly the prime movers of this fraud. It remains to be seen whether we charge any of the students,” Lelling said during a press conference Tuesday.

Lelling also added that “it appears that the schools are not involved.”

In a written statement emailed to The News Tuesday, Northeastern spokesperson Renata Nyul said the university is aware of the criminal complaint. Nyul maintained that the school has a high level of scrutiny in its admissions process and is “not aware of any impropriety in connection with any Northeastern admissions decisions.”

In May of 2017, Manuel Henriquez donated $250,000 to Northeastern’s Cybersecurity and Privacy Institute in the Khoury College of Computer Sciences. Henriquez also supports the university’s Torch Scholars Program for first-generation college students, and named a scholarship in honor of his late mother, per a Khoury press release from the same year.

Both Manuel Henriquez and Elizabeth Henriquez will appear in federal court in New York Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s office confirmed in an email to The News.

Correction: This article previously misdefined the purpose of the Northeastern University Corporation.

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