According to her LinkedIn page, Isabelle Henriquez is “a rapid learner” who enjoys “finding the problem and taking a step back to observe all possible solutions.”
According to the FBI, Isabelle Henriquez solved the problem of getting accepted into Georgetown University by knowingly cheating on her SATs—and participating in a $25 million cash-for-college scheme that could send her parents to prison.
Nearly three dozen wealthy parents were indicted as part of a vast confederacy of dunces on Tuesday, after federal investigators alleged that they shelled out millions of dollars to bribe, lie and cheat their children into some of the nation’s top universities.
But Isabelle is one of the only kids accused of willingly participating in the fraud—and now her Georgetown diploma may be in jeopardy.
She’s the daughter of Manuel and Elizabeth Henriquez, two of the 50 people charged in a $25 million cash-for-college scheme wherein wealthy parents allegedly plotted with an unscrupulous college preparatory business to buy spots at top-flight universities.
Alongside Hollywood stars like Lori Loughlin and big-name lawyers, the Henriquezes are alleged in the 204-page complaint to have paid at least $425,000 to the Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key.
In exchange, The Key founder William Singer, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with federal investigators, helped cheat standardized tests, bribe college athletics coaches, and lie on applications for admission to Yale University, the University of Southern California, Stanford University, and other highly competitive schools—including Georgetown, where Isabelle is now a junior.
U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling described the parents as comprising “a catalog of wealth and privilege,” for whom the leg-up in admissions won by their money and connections was not enough.
“They chose to corrupt and illegally manipulate the system,’’ Lelling said at a press conference on Tuesday. “There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy.”
Although many of the parents took great steps to avoid letting their children know that their test scores and admissions letter had been bought and paid for—“it’s no accident there are no students charged,” Lelling noted—there was at least one exception.
According to the complaint, as a student at a pricey Catholic prep school, Isabelle was an active and knowing participant in the cheating scheme that resulted in her acceptance at Georgetown.
Isabelle’s parents paid The Key $25,000 to arrange for a “proctor” to sit with her as she took the SATs in October 2015 and to correct her answers as she went, the complaint said.
Manuel Henriquez is the co-founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Hercules Capital, a Northern California venture debt firm where he was paid $8,235,700 in total compensation in 2017. The Henriquezes reside in Atherton, California, a sunny hamlet in San Mateo County home to the most expensive ZIP Code in the United States.
Once the proctor was flown into San Francisco—on the Henriquezes’ dime—the exam was administered at Notre Dame High School, Belmont, the private all-girls Catholic school that Isabelle attended at the time.
“Unbeknownst to the school,” the complaint alleges, the proctor “sat side-by-side” with Isabelle during the exam, providing her with answers as she went. “After the exam, he ‘gloated’ with Elizabeth Henriquez and her daughter about the fact that they had cheated and gotten away with it.”
Isabelle received a score of 1900 out of 2400, a 320-point improvement from her previous score, according to the complaint—although likely still too low to gain admission to Georgetown without spectacular extracurriculars and character references.
Fortunately for Isabelle, according to the complaint, The Key was able to provide those as well.
Federal investigators allege that the Henriquezes conspired with The Key to bribe Gordon Ernst, Georgetown’s head tennis coach, into designating Isabelle a tennis recruit, despite her notable handicap of having never played in a tennis tournament during her entire high school career.
“I have been really successful this summer playing tennis around the country,” Isabelle wrote in a letter to Ernst, the complaint alleges. “I am looking forward to having a chance to be part of the Georgetown tennis team and make a positive contribution to your team’s success.”
Isabelle was also encouraged to rewrite her college application essay to be more tennis-centric, in keeping with her newfound lifelong passion for the sport. In her essay, Isabelle detailed the “three[-to-]four hours a day grinding out on and off court workouts with the hopes of becoming successful enough to play college tennis especially at Georgetown.”
In exchange for designating Isabelle a tennis recruit, the complaint alleges, The Key paid Ernst $950,000, part of more than $2.7 million in bribes paid to the coach by multiple parents between 2012 and 2018.
Isabelle’s Georgetown application was submitted on Oct. 25, 2015. In it, the complaint alleges, she falsely stated that she played “club tennis” for 20 hours per week and was on the U.S. Tennis Association’s All-Academic Team. For good measure, Isabelle noted that she was ranked in the top 50 high schoolers on the USTA Junior Girls Tennis for three years, as well.
Isabelle was admitted to Georgetown, and in May 2016, the Henriquez Family Trust “donated” $400,000 to the Key Worldwide Foundation, a non-profit that allegedly functioned as a front for Singer’s payments to crooked coaches and proctors. The donation, according to a receipt delivered to Elizabeth Henriquez, would allow the foundation “to move forward with our plans to provide educational and self-enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth.”
Since her matriculation at Georgetown, Isabelle has declared her major in Spanish and worked as a tutor at Hoya Helpers, a program wherein Georgetown students tutor local public schoolchildren in Washington, D.C. In a blog entry written for a sociology class—scrubbed after this article was published—she described herself as “very independent and not dependent on others when I need things.”
“I also find that I have a good moral compass,” Isabelle wrote.
Isabelle, who did not respond to multiple requests for comment, has interned at Hercules Capital, her father’s company, as well as on the investment banking team of Compass Point Research and Trading. Next summer, she is slated to work as a summer wealth management analyst at Jefferies, a New York-based financial services company.
After this article was first published, Hercules Capital announced that Manuel Henriquez had “voluntarily stepped aside” from his role as chairman and CEO, although he will still serve as a board member and company advisor.
A person who answered the phone at Compass Point would not confirm that Isabelle is still interning at the firm, and calls to Jefferies went unanswered. But Georgetown University representatives said Tuesday that the school is reserving the right to take action on charges that its admission system was compromised by a current student.
“Now that the government’s investigation has detailed the extent of the alleged fraud, we are reviewing the details of the indictment and will be taking appropriate action,” said Lisa Brown, vice president and general counsel at Georgetown, and Erik Smulson, vice president and senior adviser to Georgetown’s president.
In regards to inquiries from The Daily Beast about whether Georgetown anticipates any disciplinary actions for students alleged to have cheated during standardized admissions tests, media relations manager Matt Hill said that Georgetown would refrain from commenting on individual students, in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
According to the school’s honor code, all students at Georgetown pledge “to be honest in every academic endeavor, and to conduct myself honorably.” Dismissal from the university, the most serious sanction that can be handed down by Georgetown’s Honor Board, is considered “the appropriate sanction for egregious first-time offenses, such as altering one’s academic transcript.”
Even facing possible expulsion from Georgetown, however, Isabelle’s potential punishment is nowhere near as severe as that faced by her parents. If convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud—a felony charge—the Henriquezes could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.