STANFORD (CBS SF) — Stanford University sailing coach John Vandemoer was fired Tuesday, hours after he was named a key figure in a massive, nationwide college admissions scandal.
Vandemoer pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in federal court in Boston on Tuesday. Consulting company founder Rick Singer — the main figure in the scandal — has also pleaded guilty to federal charges.
According to the federal charging documents, Vandemoer took advantage of the athletic and university’s recruiting policy to sell admission to the school for as much as $500,000.
“Like many universities, Stanford recruits student athletes, and may apply different criteria when evaluating applications from students with demonstrated athletic abilities,” the court document read. “The admissions prospects of recruited athletes are higher than those of non-recruited athletes with similar grade and standardized test scores.”
Stanford University issued a statement saying it was cooperating with federal investigators and that Vandemoer had been fired.
Stanford and its athletics programs have the highest expectations of integrity and ethical conduct. The university has been cooperating with the Dept. of Justice and is deeply concerned by these allegations. The sailing team head coach has been terminated.
The charges state that sailing head coach John Vandemoer accepted financial contributions to the sailing program from an intermediary in exchange for agreeing to recommend two prospective students for admission to Stanford. Neither student came to Stanford. However, the alleged behavior runs completely counter to Stanford’s values.
Based on the Department of Justice investigation to date, 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.
Vandemoer worked with a foundation set up by Singer, who prosecutors say was the key figure in the scandal.
In the summer of 2017, Vandemoer is alleged to have designated the child of one of Singer’s clients as a sailing recruit in an exchange for a $110,000 payment to the program.
A profile of the student described them as a competitive sailor which was false. When the student decided to attend another school instead of Stanford, the charging document said Vandemoer went back to Singer and agreed to use it for another client’s child. This time the price was a $500,000 payment to the Stanford program.
“Although Stanford Applicant 2 ultimately did not apply to Stanford, Singer mailed a payment of $160,000 … to the Stanford sailing program,” the charging document stated. “Vandemoer agreed with Singer that the payment would serve as a ‘deposit’ for a future student’s purported recruitment.”
John Vandemoer Arrives At Federal Court
The FBI affidavit includes transcripts of a phone call in October 2018 between John B. Wilson, Vandemoer and a “cooperating witness” believed to be Singer.
“If you want I can provide John Vandemoer — [which] I’m going to essentially send John directly the check,” Singer is recorded saying. “I can send him your $500,000 that you wired into my account to secure the spot for one of your girls. I asked him for a second spot in sailing and he said he can’t do that because he has to actually recruit some real sailors so that Stanford doesn’t … catch on.”
The Singer-Vandemoer scheme was just one tentacle of a major scandal that included USC, UCLA and other schools across the country.
According to the criminal complaint released on Tuesday, the scheme began in 2011 and is the largest case of its kind ever filed by the U.S. Justice Department.
“This case is about the widening corruption in elite college admissions, through the steady application of wealth combined with fraud. There can be no separate college admissions system for the wealthy, and I’ll add that there will not be a separate criminal justice system either,” said US attorney Andrew Lelling.
According to Lelling, nearly 50 people have been indicted, including the organizers of the alleged scam, exam administrators, an exam proctor, a college administrator, nine coaches and 33 parents. Lelling indicated there may be more people involved than those indicted.
Singer is accused of taking $125,000 to several million dollars in bribes to get students admitted to elite universities including Stanford, UCLA, University of San Diego, Wake Forest University, Georgetown and the University of Southern California.
Prosecutors alleged that parents paid Singer’s company $25 million from 2011 through February 2019 to bribe coaches and administrators to label their children as recruited athletes to boost their chances of getting into schools.