Stanford University’s head sailing coach pleaded guilty Tuesday to accepting bribes
in the massive national college-admissions fraud case and swiftly fired from his job after 11 years with the Cardinal.
John Vandemoer agreed to hold open coveted admission spots at the highly competitive university for two applicants falsely portrayed as competitive sailors in exchange for payments to the sailing program, according to a federal indictment. The students ultimately declined to enroll at Stanford, but the indictment alleges the sailing program received payments totaling $270,000 to fraudulently admit an unworthy applicant.
Vandemoer, 41, of Palo Alto, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering in federal court in Boston on Tuesday. He did not respond to phone and email messages.
Robert Fisher, Vandemoer’s attorney, when asked to explain why John Vandemoer decided to get involved in this scam, said he can’t comment on that.
“He pleaded guilty to a crime today. He’s remorseful. And he still professes how upset he is at this, and that it’s affecting Stanford, a school he loves, and it’s affecting his players, his team, the university as a whole,” Fisher said in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“He feels horrible he dragged Stanford into this.”
Fisher said Vandemoer didn’t take any of the money from for himself. “Not one dime,” he said.
“As the US attorney said, there was one coach in the country involved in this who did not profit personally, and that was John,” Fisher added.
Stanford said in a statement Tuesday that the university has been cooperating with the Department of Justice and that Vandemoer “has been terminated.”
“The university and its athletics programs have the highest expectations of integrity and ethical conduct,” the Stanford statement said. “The alleged behavior runs completely counter to Stanford’s values.”
Stanford added that “we have no evidence that the alleged conduct involves anyone else at Stanford or is associated with any other team. However, we will be undertaking an internal review to confirm that.”
Tuesday’s indictments named 50 defendants from coast to coast variously charged with conspiracy, racketeering and fraud in what is considered the largest college admissions cheating scandal in history. It implicated athletic coaches from Stanford, Yale, USC, Wake Forest and Georgetown, among others, as well as parents and exam administrators.
Four former and current USC coaches and athletic administrators were indicted on racketeering charges: Senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel, legendary water polo coach Jovan Vavic, former women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin and former assistant women’s soccer coach Laura Janke. USC fired both Heinel and Vavic — a 15-time national coach of the year — on Tuesday.
In one instance in December 2017, Heinel received $50,000 from the parents of a student recruited to the Trojans’ women’s crew team with no crew experience. The same parents also donated $200,000 to a charity as part of the scheme, according to prosecutors.
That student and her older sister, who was admitted under similar circumstances earlier in 2017, are the daughters of clothing designer Mossimo Giannulli and actress Lori Loughlin.
Vandemoer's modest home in Palo Alto
The indictment charging Vandemoer accuses him of participating in a scheme with a for-profit Newport Beach college counseling and preparation business called The Edge College & Career Network, LLC, also known as “The Key.” It was founded by William Rick Singer, the alleged center of the caper, around 2007 and incorporated in 2012, along with the Key Worldwide Foundation.
According to the charging documents, the conspiracy aimed to grease the admission of students to elite universities like Stanford as recruited athletes regardless of their athletic abilities, enriching Singer and his co-conspirators as well as athletic programs run by Vandemoer and other coaches.
The accused allegedly designated applicants as recruits for competitive college athletic teams like the Stanford sailing team without regard for their athletic skills in exchange for bribes, which they hid by funneling payments through Key Worldwide Foundation charitable accounts.
The charging documents allege that during the summer of 2017, Vandemoer agreed to designate the child of one of Singer’s clients as a recruit for the Stanford sailing team in exchange for a payment to Stanford sailing.
Singer’s associate allegedly created a student-athlete “profile” that was sent electronically to Stanford and that falsely suggested that the applicant was a competitive sailor. In May 2018, after that prospective student recruit deferred his application to Stanford for a year, Singer mailed a payment of $110,000 from one of the KWF charitable accounts to the Stanford sailing program. Vandemoer allegedly agreed in exchange to designate the applicant as a sailing recruit the following year.
Last summer after that applicant decided to attend another university, Vandemoer allegedly agreed with Singer to hold the recruiting spot for another prospective student who was the child of a Singer client in exchange for a $500,000 payment to the Stanford sailing program.
Singer and his associates allegedly created false documents indicating that the second applicant was a competitive sailor though the student had “minimal sailing experience.”
That student also ultimately declined to apply to Stanford, but Singer allegedly mailed a payment of $160,000 from one of the Key Worldwide Foundation charitable accounts to the Stanford sailing program. Vandemoer, the indictment said, agreed to consider it a “deposit” for a future student’s purported recruitment.
| Video |