SAN FRANCISCO—A San Francisco couple received the longest sentence of the parents involved in the college admissions scandal, coined “Operation Varsity Blues” by authorities. Federal prosecutors recommended the longest sentence to Manuel Henriquez—founder, chairman, and CEO of Hercules Technology Growth Capital—who could face an 18-month sentence while his wife, Elizabeth Henriquez, could face up to 26 monhts in prison.
Prosecutors additionally gave lengthy sentences to the former CEO of Pimco, Douglas Hodge, and former food industry executive, Michelle Janavs, who could face 24 and 21 months in prison. Prosecutors indicated these California parents were “far and away the most culpable parents…to have admitted their guilt [in this case],” as explained to U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton.
The four parents initially pleaded not guilty, but changed their plea in October 2019. Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez admitted to fraternizing with William “Rick” Singer, the scandal’s main consultant who used the money he received to inflate test scores and bribe college officials, five times and paying $450,000 to rig their two children’s college exams and get their oldest into Georgetown as a tennis recruit.
U.S. Attorney Justin D. O’Connell argued that the four parents “only stopped because they either ran out of children or ran out of time before they got caught.” Prosecutors feel this harsher sentencing reflects their continuous criminal involvement, which is rumored to have included involvement from their children, and exploitation of the system.
Previously the longest sentence given was six months. Elizabeth Henriquez is expected to be sentenced in March along with her husband.
ments unsealed in federal court on March 12 detailed a $25 million nationwide college-acceptance fraud scandal, implicating 50 people including two SAT/ACT administrators, one exam proctor, nine coaches at elite schools, one college administrator and 33 parents in what authorities dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.””
Dozens of parents, coaches and facilitators, including “Desperate Housewives” star Felicity Huffman and “Fuller House” actress Lori Loughlin, are believed to have allegedly paid millions in bribes to coaches to guarantee their children’s admission to top schools of their choice including Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, the University of Southern California, the University of Texas, UCLA and Wake Forest.
Huffman and Loughlin were charged for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Huffman was arrested at her Hollywood Hills home by FBI officials in March 2019. Loughlin surrendered to authorities at the Central District Court, the following day.
The affidavit in support of criminal complaint revealed that Huffman contributed $15,000 for her eldest daughter to have her incorrect exam answers altered to increase her SAT score. Arrangements were made to re-attempt the scheme for her younger daughter, but she did not pursue it.
Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Gianulli, known for the popular clothing brand Mossimo, “agreed to pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters designated as recruits to the USC crew team — despite the fact that they did not participate in crew — thereby facilitating their admission to USC.” The complaint also revealed federal agents have recorded phone calls of the celebrities speaking with cooperating witnesses and have incriminating emails from Loughlin.
Loughlin deleted her social media accounts and her daughter, who goes by Olivia Jade on her Instagram and Youtube page, was forced to disable her Instagram comments after people started harassing her over the alleged college cheating scandal.
The non-profit college-prep Key World Wide Foundation, between 2011 to 2018, received a total of $25 million in charitable donations, alleged to be bribes, by wealthy parents to founder Willam Rick Singer making this the largest college admissions scam to be prosecuted by the Justice Department according to US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling of the District of Massachusetts. Parents used the donation guise as a tax deduction.
Most clients paid Singer between $250,000 and $450,000 per student with some paying as much as $6.5 million Lelling noted during a press conference in March 2019.
Investigations began in May 2018 after uncovering evidence of a large scale elaborate fraud while working an unrelated, undercover operation.
“The FBI uncovered what we believe is a rig system robbing students all over the country of their right at a fair shot to getting into some of the most elite universes in this country,” said FBI special agent Joseph R. Bonavolonta. “We believe everyone charged here today had a role in fostering a culture of corruption and greed that created an uneven playing field for students trying to get into these schools the right way through hard work, good grades and community service.”
Written By Alyssia Castillo and Donald Roberts