The college admissions scandal just produced its first criminal sentence: probation for the former Stanford sailing coach who raked in $610,000 in bribes from wealthy parents trying to get their kids into the elite school.
But John Vandemoer will face no additional prison time for accepting cash from the parents who wanted their non-sailing kids fraudulently tapped as sailing recruits, a federal judge in Boston ruled Wednesday. Instead, the 41-year-old will face two years of supervised release after pleading guilty to racketeering charges, including six months confined to his home. He’ll also have to pay a $10,000 fine.
He actually was sentenced to prison time — one day — but the judge said it had already been served, so he could start his probation immediately.
Federal prosecutors wanted him to spend 13 months in prison, and assistant U.S. attorney Eric Rosen warned Vandemoer’s sentence would “set the tone for this case going forward,” since he was the first to be sentenced. Vandemoer is one of 22 defendants in the case — including actress Felicity Huffman — to plead guilty to the charges lobbed in the FBI’s massive criminal probe, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.” (The case’s other famous defendant, Lori Loughlin, pleaded not guilty to the charges against her.) Overall, 50 defendants, including parents and coaches, were charged in March.
“The court needs to send a powerful message to would-be cheaters that such criminal conduct will not be tolerated,” Rosen said, according to Reuters.
However, the judge didn’t think prison time was necessary because the money he took went to Stanford’s sailing program rather than his own pockets, according to USA Today.
"Mr Vandemoer is probably the least culpable," Massachusetts Judge Rya Zobel said during sentencing, according to CNN. "They (the others charged) took money for themselves. He did not do that. All the money he took went directly to the sailing program."
And, in the end, none of the kids tied to Vandemoer actually went to Stanford thanks to his favors, though Vandemoer accepted the cash anyway. For instance, he tapped a female applicant from China as a sailing recruit in 2016 at the urging of ringleader Rick Singer, who crafted a fake sailing profile for the girl, according to USA Today. She was later accepted through the normal admissions process but is no longer at Stanford.
Singer, who pleaded guilty in March, paid $25 million to several coaches at elite schools across the country to tip the recruiting process in his clients’ favor. Another part of the scheme had parents paying Singer to have someone else take their kid's college entrance exams, such as the SAT and ACT, to get a better score.
Cover: John Vandemoer, former head sailing coach at Stanford, arrives at federal court in Boston on Tuesday, March 12, 2019, where he was expected to plead guilty to charges in a nationwide college admissions bribery scandal. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)