Disgraced Stanford coach gets house arrest, fines in college admissions scandal

The former Stanford sailing coach who admitted accepting bribes in a nationwide college admissions scandal will serve two years’ supervised release and be placed under house arrest for his role in the massive cheating scheme.

The sentence handed down Wednesday afternoon in Boston federal court was the first in the so-called “Varsity Blues” case and spares John Vandemoer prison time. Vandemoer instead will serve six months in home detention and was also ordered to pay a $10,000 fine, U.S. attorney’s officials announced.

Federal prosecutors in court documents cited by the Associated Press had pressed for a 13-month prison term for the disgraced coach, saying that many saw the scheme as proof that wealth and privilege alone open the doors to the nation’s elite schools.

“The crimes of the defendant and his co-conspirators confirmed, for many, the worst of what they had long suspected: that hard work and sacrifice matter less than money and the access it buys,” the documents read.

Federal prosecutors alleged parents paid approximately $25 million between 2011 and 2018 to William Rick Singer – the Sacramento man whose college counseling business Edge College and Career Network served as a front for the scheme – to bribe university administrators and coaches including Vandemoer to designate their children athletic recruits.

Vandemoer was one of a slew of coaches at prominent universities across the country accused of accepting cash to admit students purporting to be student athletes. The list was long and included a volleyball coach at Wake Forest; a senior associate athletic director and women’s soccer coach at the University of Southern California; and a University of Texas men’s tennis coach.

Singer’s business also served as a front for a standardized test cheating operation to get students into premier U.S. schools and universities. As part of the operation, parents paid huge sums to have third parties take their children’s college placement examinations and boost exam scores.

The coaches and dozens of others – from television stars Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin and Loughlin’s husband, the fashion designer Mossimo Giannuli, to CEOs and private equity executives – were charged in the scheme.

In all, nine coaches and 33 parents were charged along with the 59-year-old Singer, his Folsom accountant and financial officer Steven Masera, 69; and associate Mikaela Sanford, 32, of Folsom.

As many as 13 parents have pleaded to charges tied to the scheme, including Huffman, who will be sentenced in September and could face federal prison. Laughlin and Giannuli have fought the charges and will return to a Boston courtroom in October.

Singer pleaded in March to racketeering conspiracy, money laundering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of justice and is cooperating with authorities. He faces a September sentencing hearing in Boston.

Masera is also cooperating with authorities. In late May, he agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering and awaits a plea hearing. Prosecutors said they planned to recommend supervised release along with fines, restitution and a forfeiture of assets. Sanford pleaded not guilty in March to racketeering conspiracy charges. Her next court date is set for October.

Vandemoer was Stanford’s sailing coach for 11 years from 2009 until his termination from the university March 12 in the wake of the federal charges filed against him. Vandemoer pleaded guilty later that same day to a sole count of racketeering conspiracy.

Vandemoer accepted more than $100,000 from a go-between. In exchange, federal prosecutors alleged, the coach agreed to recommend two prospective students for admission to the elite school.

Neither student was accepted to Stanford – one was denied admission, the other failed to complete an application – university officials said in March, but in a statement announcing Vandemoer’s firing, Stanford officials said Vandemoer’s behavior “runs completely counter to Stanford’s values.”

In a joint statement in March, Stanford’s president Marc Tessier-Lavigne and provost Persis Drell called the scheme and Vandemoer’s role in it “nothing short of appalling” and promised to give the money to “an entity unaffiliated with Stanford.”

Stanford has been cooperating with federal authorities.

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Darrell Smith covers courts and California news for The Sacramento Bee. He joined The Bee in 2006 and previously worked at newspapers in Palm Springs, Colorado Springs, Colo., and Marysville. A Sacramento Valley native, Smith was born and raised at Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville.