Stanford coach is first sentenced in university admissions scandal

Vandemoer leaves the federal courthouse in Boston after being sentenced for his role in the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal. (Reuters pic)

NEW YORK: A former Stanford University coach who was implicated in a wide-ranging college admissions bribery scandal was sentenced Wednesday to two years of supervised release, a lenient first sentence in a star-studded case.

Ex-sailing coach John Vandemoer, 41, pleaded guilty in March for accepting payments to the program totalling US$610,000 “in exchange for corrupting the admissions process of a major university,” said US Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling in a statement.

Fifty people have been implicated in the sweeping college admissions scam, in which parents paid bribes to aid their children’s entrance into prestigious universities. Vandemoer’s is the first sentence in relation to the scandal, and 22 people have pleaded guilty.

Vandemoer claimed high school students as recruits for the team, thereby aiding their admission, in exchange for the payments.

California Senior Judge Rya Zobel sentenced Vandemoer to supervised release, with the first six months to be served in home detention, and also ordered him to pay a US$10,000 fine.

Lelling, who has led the proceedings linked to the scandal, had recommended a sentence of 13 months in prison and one year of supervised release.

“We will continue to seek meaningful penalties in these cases,” Lelling added in the statement.

The ringleader behind the scam, William “Rick” Singer, who authorities say was paid about US$25 million to bribe coaches and university administrators, has also pleaded guilty and is cooperating with authorities. His sentencing will take place on Sept 19.

Under the scam, which broke in mid-March, parents paid a firm run by Singer to cheat on college entrance exams for their children or to bribe coaches to help non-athletic students get scholarships.

Besides Stanford, some of the universities targeted in the elaborate cheating scam include USC, Yale, UCLA and Georgetown. None of the schools or the students have been charged in the case.

Among the people involved are actresses Felicity Huffman of “Desperate Housewives” and Lori Loughlin from “Full House.”

Huffman pleaded guilty in May and will be sentenced on Sept 13. Loughlin and her husband pleaded not guilty, and their trial is not expected to take place for several months.

A Chinese family admitted to paying Singer US$6.5 million to guarantee their daughter admission to Stanford, with Vandemoer’s help, though the mother said she was duped into believing the sum was a charitable donation.

Another Chinese family paid Singer US$1.2 million to get their daughter admitted to Yale.