Ex-Stanford sailing coach in college-admissions scam is sentenced: no prison time, $10K fine

John Vandemoer, who accepted nearly $800K in bribes, faced up to 20-year sentence

Stanford University's former head sailing coach John Vandemoer became the first person to be sentenced in the national college admissions case on Wednesday for knowingly designating two applicants as recruits despite their lack of experience in the sport.

U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel ordered him to a day of incarceration, which he already served; two years of supervised release, with the first six months to be served under home detention; and pay a $10,000 fine, according to Department of Justice.

Vandemoer, 41, of Palo Alto, had faced up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine or "twice the gross gain or loss," according to the DOJ. Federal prosecutors had sought 13 months in prison and a year of supervised release.

Vandemoer appeared in Zobel's courtroom in Boston, Massachusetts. He pleaded guilty to a charge of information with racketeering conspiracy on March 12, the same day federal prosecutors announced indictments against him and 49 others for the $25-million scandal.

The scam led by Newport Beach resident Rick "William" Singer involved parents paying tens of thousands of dollars to falsify scores on college entrance exams and athlete profiles to guarantee admission to some of the nation's top universities. The money was funneled through Singer's purported nonprofit, The Key Worldwide Foundation, that parents wrote off as charitable contributions.

Vandemoer first engaged in the scheme during the summer of 2017 when he agreed to classify one of Singer's clients as a Stanford sailing recruit in exchange for a payment to the team. One of Singer's associates created a fake profile that called the client a competitive sailor.

The client applying to the university deferred his application in May 2018, the same month Singer sent Vandemoer $110,000 through a foundation account to keep the potential student in the recruitment cycle for the following year. That summer, the client opted to enroll at a different university, which led Vandemoer and Singer to make arrangements for another applicant to take the recruiting spot in return for $500,000.

False documents were created to make the second client appear as a competitive sailor, but in reality, the person had little experience in the sport and later ended up not attending Stanford. Singer sent $160,000 to Vandemoer and they agreed the funds would be a "deposit" for a future fake recruit.

Stanford terminated Vandemoer from his position the same the day charges were announced.

Several letters from family members, former students, sailing colleagues and others were submitted to the court seeking the judge to consider Vandemoer's history, actions after the charges were announced and character in his sentence. Vandemoer's wife, Molly Vandemoer, told the judge that her husband found a therapist "to help him sort through his emotions" and is pursuing his Master of Business Administration through online classes to help him become more "employable."

Stanford's interim head sailing coach Clinton Hayes, who served as an assistant coach for eight years during Vandemoer's tenure, described Vandemoer as "an incredibly passionate, caring and motivated person who truly wants to do what's best for the people around him."

The letter also spoke to Vandemoer's dedication to each student-athlete, such as excusing them from practice for weeks while they focused on an internship or series of job interviews. "John ... truly believed that a person should get (to) have a full college experience regardless of their status as a student athlete."

While Stanford University took no position on a sentence for Vandemoer, a victim impact statement signed by Vice President and general counsel Debra Zumwalt condemned Vandemoer's role in the scandal.

"Mr. Vandemoer's actions in this matter are profoundly disappointing and especially so as he had a reputation for caring deeply for his student-athletes," Zumwalt wrote. While the scheme resulted in donations to the university's sailing team, Stanford considers the money "tainted" and is working with the state attorney general to spend the money "for the public good."

Vandemoer faced up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine or "twice the gross gain or loss," according to federal prosecutors.

Singer, 58, has pleaded to four federal charges that collectively carry a maximum sentence of 65 years in prison. He scheduled for sentencing on Sept. 19.

The other defendants include college athletic staff, test administrators and 33 parents, including actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Of the 10 indicted parents who have Midpeninsula connections, four have pleaded guilty and six others have denied the charges.

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7 people like this
Posted by Slap on the wrist
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2019 at 4:18 pm

Thankfully, Mr. Vandemoer does not have to serve jail time. Six months of home detention? That's nothing. Two years of supervised release? That's not much either. The key word here is "release." And a "fine" of $10,000? That's peanuts compared to the $800,000 that he is known to have made in bribes. Who knows how much more he made? Thanks to the judge, this nice person is now pretty much scot-free. If he was, you know, from one of those other neighborhoods, then that would be a totally different matter.

Like this comment
Posted by drslb
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Jun 12, 2019 at 8:08 pm

drslb is a registered user.

I guess if you have a Stanford connection the criminal justice system doesn’t feel you should suffer in jail. What this man did was really wrong. Undermines the college admissions system and he made more money than many make in a life time. What’s wrong with this picture. I wonder if Santa Clara County is going to get rid of another judge.

4 people like this
Posted by David B. Karpf, MD
a resident of North Whisman
on Jun 16, 2019 at 10:01 am

I share the concern mentioned by the anonymous poster & drlsb, regarding the apparently gross sentencing disparities between wealthy white criminals vs criminals of color or lower income. And this sentence, of one day incarceration (already served), 6 months of home detention, 3 years of supervised parole, and a $10,000 fine, may not have been perfectly retributive for his crime.

However, the posters are incorrect in stating that he profitted from $800,000 in bribes. There is no evidence of this. Rather, the ringleader, Singer, bribed this man to accept non-sailing students as student athletes, to raise money for the Stanford Sailing Program. So his actions, while criminal, were also somewhat "altuistic". He is now out of a job, so getting no income, and is on 6-month home arrest. His career in a academia is over, and he has a felony on his record; although he may be employable, it's going to be tough. He and his wife (unsure about kids) may be able to survive in the Bay Area on her salary (assuming she's working at a well paid job), but it might be tough. So maybe the sentence was appropriate for a criminal who does not require incarceration to protect society.

The ringleader was Singer, who was tge beneficiary of the cash paid by the entitled parents who tried to game the system on behalf of their kids. Singer probably will be incarcerated, and face subtantial fines - that may also be the case for any involved parents who face trial without stating their guilt.

2 people like this
Posted by Cardinal Fan
a resident of another community
on Jun 18, 2019 at 10:24 am

Hooray Stanford! We win again!

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