July 29, 2020 / 8:46 PM / 12 days ago

Finance company founder gets six months in prison in U.S. college scandal

BOSTON, July 29 (Reuters) - The former chief executive of specialty finance lender Hercules Capital Inc was sentenced on Wednesday to six months in prison for paying $450,000 to help his daughters gain an unfair edge in the college admissions process.

Federal prosecutors in Boston say Manuel Henriquez and his wife, Elizabeth Henriquez, sought to rig their two daughters’ college entrance exam results and secure the older one’s admission to Georgetown University in Washington as a fake tennis recruit.

Lawyers for Henriquez, who co-founded Palo Alto, California-based Hercules Capital, sought leniency during a hearing held virtually because of the coronavirus pandemic. He apologized for crimes that had made him “a common thief.”

But U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said a message needed to be sent to other “over-the-top wealthy” millionaires who think the law does not apply to them. He also ordered the 56-year-old to pay a $200,000 fine.

“You have woefully misused your great wealth, and for the commission of this crime, you need to go to jail,” he said.

Henriquez, who stepped down from Hercules Capital after the charges were announced in March 2019, is among 55 people charged with participating in a scheme in which wealthy parents conspired with college admissions consultant William “Rick” Singer to fraudulently secure their children’s admission to top schools.

Singer pleaded guilty last year to facilitating college entrance exam cheating and using bribery to secure students’ admission to colleges as fake athletic recruits.

Prosecutors said Henriquez and his wife, beginning in 2015, paid Singer about $50,000 to have an associate proctor the SAT and ACT college entrance exams for their daughters and feed them answers.

Prosecutors said the couple also paid $400,000 to have Singer arrange to have a Georgetown tennis coach he was bribing designate their older daughter as an athletic recruit.

Elizabeth Henriquez was sentenced in March to seven months in prison.

To date, 28 other parents have pleaded guilty, including “Full House” star Lori Loughlin. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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