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.