Ex-coach is spared prison in col­lege ad­mis­sions scan­dal

The Sun News - - Front Page - BY JOEL RUBIN AND MATTHEW ORMSETH

John Van­de­moer, a for­mer sail­ing coach at Stan­ford Univer­sity who swapped spots at the elite col­lege for bribes, was spared prison Wed­nes­day for his role in the wide­spread col­lege ad­mis­sions scan­dal.

In choos­ing not to in­car­cer­ate Van­de­moer, U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zo­bel came down on the side of the dis­graced coach, who had pleaded for le­niency be­cause he did not pocket the bribes per­son­ally and quickly ac­cepted re­spon­si­bil­ity for his crimes when he was dis­cov­ered. The judge sen­tenced Van­de­moer to a sym­bolic one-day im­pris­on­ment, but deemed that to have al­ready been served. She or­dered him to serve two years of pro­ba­tion, with the first six months in home con­fine­ment.

Van­de­moer, 41, was the first to be sen­tenced among the 50 coaches, par­ents and oth­ers charged in the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion into what au­thor­i­ties say was a nearly decade­long scheme to sneak the chil­dren of wealthy fam­i­lies into top uni­ver­si­ties with rigged en­trance ex­ams, bribes and doc­tored ap­pli­ca­tions that made un­qual­i­fied teens into com­pet­i­tive ath­letes.

Van­de­moer pleaded guilty to rack­e­teer­ing con­spir­acy in March and ad­mit­ted to tak­ing $610,000 from Wil­liam “Rick” Singer, a New­port Beach col­lege con­sul­tant and the con­fessed ar­chi­tect of the wide­spread

‘‘ IT IS ALSO THE ONLY WAY TO BE­GIN RESTOR­ING CON­FI­DENCE IN A COL­LEGE AD­MIS­SIONS SYS­TEM THAT MOST PEO­PLE AGREE IS NEED­LESSLY UN­FAIR. As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Eric Rosen, in a court fil­ing

scam that al­legedly in­cluded coaches and ad­min­is­tra­tors at sev­eral top-tier uni­ver­si­ties and par­ents from some of the coun­try’s wealthiest en­claves.

In ex­change for the money, which Van­de­moer gave to Stan­ford’s sail­ing pro­gram in­stead of him­self, the coach des­ig­nated three chil­dren of Singer’s clients as sailors he wanted on his team to boost their chances of ad­mis­sion to Stan­ford. None of them were com­pet­i­tive sailors.

Ap­proached by fed­eral agents in Fe­bru­ary, Van­de­moer ad­mit­ted tak­ing bribes from Singer and con­ceal­ing his il­licit deal­ings from Stan­ford, pros­e­cu­tors said. He was ar­rested in March and fired the same day from the head sail­ing coach post he’d held for 11 years.

Pros­e­cu­tors had asked Zo­bel to sen­tence Van­de­moer to 13 months in prison, say­ing it was a just pun­ish­ment for some­one who had de­frauded Stan­ford of its right to se­lect the roughly 2,000 students it wants to ad­mit from an ap­pli­cant pool that reached nearly 44,000 last year. More broadly, As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Eric Rosen wrote in a court fil­ing, Van­de­moer had sown cyn­i­cism and deep­ened the public’s mis­trust of the col­lege ad­mis­sions process.

A pe­riod of in­car­cer­a­tion was also needed, Rosen ar­gued, to de­ter oth­ers who might be tempted to try a sim­i­lar scam.

“It is also the only way to be­gin restor­ing con­fi­dence in a col­lege ad­mis­sions sys­tem that most peo­ple agree is need­lessly un­fair,” Rosen wrote.

Van­de­moer’s at­tor­ney had asked the judge to

take a far more sym­pa­thetic view of Van­de­moer. The at­tor­ney, Robert Fisher, wrote in a court fil­ing that the fa­ther of two should be spared prison and re­ceive only pro­ba­tion.

Fisher em­pha­sized that Van­de­moer did not profit per­son­ally from the bribes, de­spite the op­por­tu­nity to do so, and that no students were ad­mit­ted through his mis­deeds. Of the three ap­pli­cants Van­de­moer mis­rep­re­sented to Stan­ford as sail­ing re­cruits, two chose to at­tend other schools.

The third stu­dent was ad­mit­ted to Stan­ford through the nor­mal ap­pli­ca­tion process; the ath­letic re­cruit­ing scam proved un­suc­cess­ful be­cause Singer and Van­de­moer ini­ti­ated it too late in the re­cruit­ing sea­son, pros­e­cu­tors said.

That stu­dent, iden­ti­fied by the Los An­ge­les Times as Yusi Zhao, has been ex­pelled from Stan­ford. Her mother ac­knowl­edged pay­ing Singer $6.5 mil­lion af­ter Zhao was ad­mit­ted in 2017. Singer then di­rected $500,000 to Van­de­moer’s sail­ing pro­gram.

Through an at­tor­ney, Yusi Zhao’s mother de­nied her pay­ment was a bribe. No mem­ber of the Zhao fam­ily has been charged in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, which is on­go­ing.

In a vic­tim im­pact state­ment filed with the court, Stan­ford’s gen­eral coun­sel said Van­de­moer had tried to un­der­cut a highly se­lec­tive ad­mis­sions process the school con­sid­ers “vi­tal to its mis­sion and rep­u­ta­tion.”

While the gen­eral coun­sel, Debra Zumwalt, said Van­de­moer’s crimes were “wholly an­ti­thet­i­cal to Stan­ford’s core val­ues,” she noted he took re­spon­si­bil­ity and had not en­riched him­self from the scheme. Stan­ford took no po­si­tion on Van­de­moer re­ceiv­ing a par­tic­u­lar sen­tence.

Sev­eral other coaches have also ad­mit­ted to charges in the case, in­clud­ing Yale women’s soc­cer coach Rudy Mered­ith, who is sched­uled to be sen­tenced next week, ac­cord­ing to As­so­ci­ated Press re­ports.

Wealthy par­ents charged in­clude ac­tresses Felic­ity Huff­man and Lori Lough­lin as well as Lough­lin’s fashion de­signer hus­band, Mos­simo Gian­nulli.

Huff­man is among 14 par­ents who have agreed to plead guilty. The “Des­per­ate Housewives” star has apol­o­gized for pay­ing $15,000 to have some­one rig her daugh­ter’s SAT score and is sched­uled to be sen­tenced in Septem­ber. Lough­lin and Gian­nulli, who are charged with pay­ing $500,000 to get their daugh­ters into the Univer­sity of Southern Cal­i­for­nia as crew re­cruits, are fight­ing the charges . They haven’t publicly com­mented on the al­le­ga­tions.

KATHER­INE TAY­LOR NYT

John Van­de­moer, the for­mer Stan­ford head sail­ing coach, en­ters fed­eral court Wed­nes­day to re­ceive his sen­tenc­ing in Bos­ton. He is the first per­son sen­tenced in the na­tion’s largest-ever col­lege ad­mis­sions fraud pros­e­cu­tion.

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