Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer pleads guilty in college admissions scam

PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Stanford's longtime sailing coach has been fired after he was charged, along with several Bay Area residents, in the largest college admissions cheating scam ever prosecuted in the United States.

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The boats at the Stanford Rowing and Sailing Center were tied up at the dock Tuesday. No one answered the doors of the modern boathouse along Redwood Creek.

Far away in a Boston federal courthouse, the university's sailing team coach John Vandemoer pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy charges.

Federal charges say that he was "designating applicants to Stanford as purported recruits" on his sailing team "in exchange for bribes."

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The federal complaint alleges that in the summer of 2017, William "Rick" Singer, founder of a company that helped parents get their children into elite colleges, "created a student-athlete profile" for an unnamed applicant that "falsely suggested" that he was a "competitive sailor."

The charging papers say Singer paid $110,000 to the Stanford Sailing Team account.

Later that summer, Singer reportedly paid $500,000 to the program for another sailing team recruit to attend Stanford.

As it turned out, both those boys decided to attend other schools.

The scandal shocked students and the general public as well.

Walter Cannon is a Harvard graduate. "It's shocking, frankly. it's hard enough to get into college these days, in particular places like Stanford."

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"I think there are absolutely victims. I think it's any student who deserved to get in, worked really hard," said freshman Larissa Bersh.

Devin Hagan got into Stanford the hard way...the right way. "Hard work, from the South. Not a great high school. Did my best to come out here."

Gina Sanchez wants more transparency. "I would like to see more accurate representation of fairness in the admissions process as a whole," she said.

Vandemoer's attorney spoke outside the Boston Courthouse after his client pleaded guilty. "He is remorseful. He apologizes to his family, Stanford University, staff, alumni. He is one, if not the only, coach in the country that did not accept bribes for himself."

Stanford has released the following statement:

"The U.S. Department of Justice today charged a number of people around the country in an alleged scheme in which payments were made to try to win the admission of prospective students to a number of U.S. colleges and universities. Stanford's head sailing coach was among those charged in the case.
Stanford has been cooperating with the Department of Justice in its investigation and is deeply concerned by the allegations in this case. The university and its athletics programs have the highest expectations of integrity and ethical conduct. The head coach of the Stanford sailing team 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."

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