Hercules founder Manuel Henriquez pleads guilty in college bribery case

Henriquez’s wife was also allegedly involved in the scandal and pleaded guilty. Both are set to be sentenced early next year.

Hercules Capital founder and former chief executive Manuel Henriquez has pleaded guilty as part of the US college admissions bribery scandal, according to the court docket.

The founder of the Palo Alto, California-based venture lender entered a guilty plea to two counts: one for conspiracy to commit money laundering and one for conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and honest services mail and wire fraud. His wife, Elizabeth Henriquez, also pleaded guilty to identical counts.

Elizabeth is scheduled to have her sentence hearing on 7 February, while Manuel will have his on 5 March. Both originally entered pleas of not guilty. The charges were not related to his stewardship of Hercules.

Hercules and Manuel could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Melinda Haag of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, declined to comment. Elizabeth’s attorney, Aaron Katz for Ropes & Gray, could not be reached to comment.

Among other things, the Henriquezes allegedly paid to have private proctors assist their two daughters during their ACT and SAT college entrance exams to secure higher scores on four separate occasions, and bribed the tennis coach at Georgetown University to accept their eldest daughter as a recruit for a sport she hadn’t played competitively in years.

The parents stand accused of having paid a minimum of $425,000 for these services, with Manuel also allegedly using his status as an alumnus at Northeastern University to help sway an admissions decision as payment for one of the test scores.

He stepped down as head of Hercules the day after the charges broke in March. Scott Blumenstein became interim CEO of the business development company. In July the board made Blumenstein the permanent CEO. That same month, Henriquez and the firm agreed to a cash-and-stock severance package worth $11.52 million at the time. That value has since increased to $11.88 million based on Monday’s share price at market close.

– Rebecca Szkutak contributed to this report