News


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

John Vandemoer, who accepted nearly $800K in bribes marked for athletic program, 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 earmarked for the sailing program.

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."

Stanford has retained New York-based law firm Simpson Thatcher & Bartlett LLP to conduct an external review of any actions that have yet to surface in relation to the scam and make recommendations to prevent a repeat of the transactions similar to the scandal, the university announced on its webpage on the case.

The university's development office is also adding measures to its gift acceptance process, including creating more written materials to guide development officers on what to look for when presented with gifts or pledges and creating a gift acceptance committee to address "unusual situations" and suggest improvements.

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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Comments

7 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2019 at 1:06 pm

According to Wikipedia, "supervised release" can only occur after serving prison time. Why does this article mentioned "supervised release" without mention any prison sentence? Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by The ROI
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 12, 2019 at 1:28 pm

Did he get to keep the $800K and pay just $250K in fines + an attorney's retainer fee?

Not a bad return on a 6-figure bribe if the money will be waiting for him after he is released from prison.


18 people like this
Posted by The ROI
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 12, 2019 at 1:30 pm

I just re-read the article. It was a $10K fine imposed.

Wow. talk about coming out smelling like a rose on this one.


5 people like this
Posted by MS
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 12, 2019 at 2:10 pm

A slap on the hand. I imagine the $$ he took will all go to attorney's fees, as it should. He should not be allowed to keep money that was illegally gained.


14 people like this
Posted by @resident
a resident of St. Claire Gardens
on Jun 12, 2019 at 2:16 pm

"U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel ordered him to a day of incarceration, which he already served;" is mentioned in the article; hence, the subsequent "two years of supervised release"ordered.

Having clarified the above, this is still just such a small slap in the wrist. While some of the money went to the school, the article does not clarify how much of the ~$900K in bribe money Vandemoer kept for himself. A $10K fine and 1 day in jail will not deter anyone from continuing this types of frauds given the potential ROI and leniency in the sentencing. Meanwhile, worthy and qualified student applicants still got rejected to make space for his students in a sham "sailing athletic club"


32 people like this
Posted by Wait there's more
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2019 at 2:27 pm

From the Washington Post article: "Vandemoer did not pocket the money personally, prosecutors say, but funneled it to the Stanford sailing program."

This is a HUGE detail to leave out and completely changes the entire story


7 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2019 at 2:37 pm

One wonders whether a particularvuniversity funded a sophisticated defense - in order to shut the door on any additional inquiries there.
Just wondering.


20 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 12, 2019 at 3:03 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

I just can't understand how a crime like this only warrants a one day prison sentence. I realize there are other penalties but it seems to send a message that this is a minor crime of no significance.


20 people like this
Posted by Bananas4Freedom
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 12, 2019 at 3:31 pm

Bananas4Freedom is a registered user.

> From the Washington Post article: "Vandemoer did not pocket the money personally, prosecutors say, but funneled it to the Stanford sailing program."

> One wonders whether a particular university funded a sophisticated defense - in order to shut the door on any additional inquiries there.

^^^the case was probably settled privately in the judge's chambers.

you are just being told what they want you to hear.


> It was a $10K fine imposed.

> Wow. Talk about coming out smelling like a rose on this one.

> I just can't understand how a crime like this only warrants a one day prison sentence. I realize there are other penalties but it seems to send a message that this is a minor crime of no significance.

^^^ the fall guy agreed to take a minor rap & Stanford agreed to take the money.


12 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2019 at 3:55 pm

Who else is thinking rich white perps = slap on the wrist with no prison time. I have to imagine that this judge is sending a message that none of the other university employees or parents or students will get any prison time either.


29 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 12, 2019 at 4:13 pm

He is the only coach or school official involved across all universities that did not pocket any money. While it helped his program , and likely his career, there was no direct personal benefit. He was fired and will never coach again, has extensive attorney’s fees and a fine to pay, lost his home on campus, is a first time offender, admitted guilt, and was remorseful. Am not sure prison makes sense under these circumstances. Much different than those who pocketed money.


18 people like this
Posted by Jane Gill
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 12, 2019 at 4:57 pm

Very sloppy reporting by Palo Alto Online.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel said she was moved to impose a softer sentence than what the government recommended because of Mr. Vandemoer’s unique position in the case—having not pocketed money for himself.
“I have no doubt that he knew what he was doing was probably wrong,” Judge Zobel said. However, she added, there was general agreement he was “probably the least culpable” of all the coaches in the case.”

Also according to the WSJ, “Vandemoere immediately took each check he received down the hall to the Development office; he kept nothing for himself.”


20 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 12, 2019 at 5:00 pm

Odd that people are so upset about this. He was only doing on behalf of the university what other parts of the university do day in and day out -- trading admissions for influence and cash.

It's not like he was the one getting the money -- it all ended up with the university. In a just world, the university would be the one punished.


3 people like this
Posted by Outrageous
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 12, 2019 at 5:16 pm

Stanford gets to keep the "tainted" money. The fine should have been at least the money then Stanford could choose to pay his fine or not. It's not up to Stanford to decide what to do with it.


2 people like this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 12, 2019 at 5:27 pm

[Post removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2019 at 5:29 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


16 people like this
Posted by paloverdeman
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 12, 2019 at 5:39 pm

paloverdeman is a registered user.

Stanford is $800K richer & will provide Mr. Vandemoer with a glowing letter of recommendation when he applies for his next position...elsewhere/somewhere.

That's how it works.


3 people like this
Posted by zach
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 12, 2019 at 8:24 pm

the article is terrible, and deliberately misleading. the coach put all yhe money in sailing program, and not under his contro. no money went to the coach. 2 years supervised release with 6 month home confinement plus 1 day , time served.
how hard is it to get the facts?
2TKMe


1 person likes this
Posted by POOR
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 13, 2019 at 1:55 am

I'm waiting to see what going to become of the rest of the gang.


2 people like this
Posted by Billy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 13, 2019 at 9:42 am

LOL LOL. Non of them are going to get any jail time. Come on people use those educated brains.


3 people like this
Posted by Elizabeth
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2019 at 11:00 am

Another source says he spends one day in jail.

Accept bribes, give bribes. Good ol' boyz club.

I could go on and on, but stopping before name calling brings me down to his level.


3 people like this
Posted by SJW
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 13, 2019 at 5:56 pm

SJW is a registered user.

So how does Stanford get off the hook for taking bribes? Where did the Development Office think the money was coming from? This smell a bit too much.


2 people like this
Posted by next?!
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 15, 2019 at 1:33 pm

Keep hearing that there are more names to be announced.
WHEN?!


1 person likes this
Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 15, 2019 at 10:41 pm

Not the message that we should be sending to our future Stanford White-collar criminals. It's almost like we are trying to incentivize people to commit these kinds of crimes.


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