The first person to be sentenced in the biggest college admissions cheating scam ever prosecuted in the U.S. will serve no time behind bars.
Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer was sentenced in a Boston courtroom Wednesday to two years of supervised release, with the first six months in home detention with electronic monitoring — a far lighter punishment than the 13 months of prison that prosecutors had recommended.
The sentence also includes one day in prison, which he already served when he was arrested, and a $10,000 fine.
Vandemoer, who was fired after the scam was uncovered in March, was accused of accepting $270,000 in bribes to try to get two college applicants into Stanford. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering as part of a deal with prosecutors.
Andrew Lelling, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, said in a statement that his office would “continue to seek meaningful penalties” in the case despite Wednesday’s development.
The scandal has implicated 50 people across the country, including athletic coaches, college administrators and dozens of rich parents, including “Full House” star Lori Loughlin and “Desperate Housewives” actress Felicity Huffman.
Federal prosecutors announced the massive conspiracy, dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues,” after convicted mastermind William “Rick” Singer cooperated with the months-long investigation and helped authorities wiretap some of the suspects. Singer made $25 million by helping wealthy parents get their children into elite colleges through illegal side doors, such as changing applicants’ SAT and ACT grades and creating fraudulent athletic profiles.
Vandemoer, a 41-year-old Palo Alto resident, agreed in 2017 to designate a child of one of Singer’s clients as a recruit for the Stanford sailing team in an exchange for a payment to the sailing program, according to a criminal complaint. The teen eventually decided to attend a different university, but Singer mailed a $110,000 payment from his sham charity to Vandemoer’s department, prosecutors said.
In 2018, the former head coach agreed to designate another student who had “minimal sailing experience” as a recruit on his team, court records show. The teen also chose not to attend Stanford, though Singer mailed a $160,000 payment to the program as a “deposit” for a future student’s recruitment, prosecutors said.
Loughlin and her fashion designer husband, Mossimo Giannulli, are accused of paying a total of $500,000 to have their two daughters admitted to the University of Southern California as fake rowing recruits. The couple have pleaded not guilty.
Huffman, in a plea deal with prosecutors, admitted paying $15,000 to have her eldest daughter’s SAT score rigged. The Emmy-award winning actress is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 13.