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Stanford Sailing Coach In Hot Water

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  • Stanford Sailing Coach In Hot Water

    The SF Chronicle's Matthias Gafni Reports

    Stanford University and its sailing team were implicated Tuesday in a nationwide college admissions cheating and bribery scheme that ensnared Hollywood actresses, CEOs, high-profile college coaches and the alleged leader of the scam.

    The Edge College and Career Network, also known as “The Key,” was operated by William Rick Singer, who also operated a charity called Key Worldwide Foundation, federal prosecutors said. Singer, who lived in Sacramento and Newport Beach, was indicted on multiple counts of money laundering, racketeering, fraud and obstruction of justice, according to documents unsealed Tuesday.

    The federal complaint alleges that in fall 2017, Stanford sailing coach John Nicholas Vandemoer agreed to designate the child of one of Singer’s clients as a recruit for the team in exchange for a payment to that program. Vandemoer, 41, will plead guilty Tuesday to charges related to the case, according to U.S. Department of Justice officials.

    As part of the scheme, Singer and others allegedly created a student-athlete application to the prestigious college falsely claiming the unidentified incoming student was a competitive sailor.

    By May 2018, the applicant deferred his application to Stanford for a year and Singer directed a $110,000 payment from one of his charity’s accounts to the Stanford sailing program in exchange for the coach’s agreement to designate the boy as a recruit the next year, prosecutors said.

    Later that summer, the boy decided to attend a different university, but Vandemoer allegedly agreed with Singer to use that same recruiting spot for another of Singer’s clients in exchange for a $500,000 payment to the program.

    Again, Singer and others created a college application for the new “recruit” that falsely indicated the teen was a competitive sailor, even though the student “had minimal sailing experience,” federal prosecutors said. Again, that student decided against applying to Stanford, but Singer nonetheless paid the sailing program $160,000 from his charity, according to the criminal complaint.

    Singer and Vandemoer agreed that the payment would serve as a deposit for a future recruit, officials said.

    Vandemoer could not immediately be reached for comment.

    At a news conference Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling said the investigation caught 33 parents nationwide, exposing “a catalogue of wealth and privilege.” The parents included CEOs for private and public companies, security investors, actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, a fashion designer and chairman of a global law firm.

    Lelling said Singer helped his wealthy clientele cheat on SAT and ACT tests, provide fake photos and athletic credentials, and then bribe elite college officials on average with $250,000 to $400,000 per student. In some cases parents spent as much as $6.5 million, prosecutors said. The parents would make “donations” to Singer’s charity, which were then flipped to bribe coaches.

    Once admitted to school, some of the “recruits” never showed up to the team practice, others faked injuries and some played briefly before quitting. But most of the students — none of whom were charged — continue to be enrolled at the colleges.

    Aside from a USC administrator, prosecutors do not believe school officials beyond coaches were involved.

    The investigation started a little over a year ago and remains ongoing, Lelling said, as prosecutors believe more parents and coaches took part in the scheme.

    San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Kim Veklerov contributed to this report.

    Matthias Gafni is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
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  • #2
    You think the results for the Big Sail will have a * next to them now?


    • #3
      Already plead guilty.

      And FIRED!


      • #4
        Well that will put a damper on the sailing program.

        Might expect that from a football program or basketball, but sailing?


        • #5
          Can't say I'm surprised. Money influences everything and some entitled will continue using their wealth to take the easy way out with everything.


          • #6
            Clear As Mud

            The Mercury New's Joseph Geha Reports

            STANFORD — The mastermind behind this week’s massive college admissions bribery scandal gave Stanford’s sailing coach a previously-undisclosed $500,000 payment after the prestigious university admitted a student who had “fabricated sailing credentials” in her application, court documents obtained by this news organization show.

            But the student was admitted through the university’s normal process, a Stanford spokesman said Thursday, and not on the recommendation of disgraced sailing coach John Vandemoer, who pleaded guilty earlier this week to charges that he accepted $270,000 in payments to reserve coveted admission spots for applicants with bogus sailing bonafides.

            The new revelations more than double the amount of money previously known that Stanford’s sailing program received in the scandal that has led to federal bribery and racketeering charges coast-to-coast against college coaches, test administrators and dozens of wealthy parents who paid millions of dollars to get their kids into the country’s elite schools.

            Stanford announced it had fired Vandemoer after he pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to commit racketeering, admitting he held open admission spots — reserved for athletic recruiting — for two students who were falsely portrayed as competitive sailors.

            Neither of those two students aided by Vandemoer was ultimately admitted to the school, according to the university and prosecutors.

            However, federal court transcripts from Vandemoer’s plea hearing show a student brought to Vandemoer as an applicant in late 2016 “was ultimately accepted to Stanford partly due to the fact that she had fabricated sailing credentials,” falsified by William Rick Singer, the man at the center of the scheme.

            “This student received no recommendation from the head sailing coach, but was admitted to Stanford through the university’s normal process and is currently enrolled,” E.J. Miranda, a spokesman for the school, said Thursday in an email.

            “The student has no affiliation with the sailing program. We are working to better understand the circumstances around this student and will take whatever actions are appropriate based on what we learn.”

            Vandemoer did not help the student’s “application in any material way,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen told the judge during the hearing.

            Yet after the student was admitted to Stanford, Singer sent $500,000 from his sham charity — paid into by wealthy parents involved in the scheme — to the Stanford Sailing program to be used at Vandemoer’s discretion.

            Vandemoer wasn’t charged in connection with that student or the payment. His lawyers say there is no evidence to show he did anything to help that student get into the elite school.
            “I’m telling you, he did nothing,” Rob Fisher, his attorney, said Thursday in an interview.

            Asked why Singer gave $500,000 to Vandemoer’s sailing program if the coach didn’t help the student get admitted, Fisher speculated that it may have been “to establish a relationship” with Vandemoer.
            “Sometimes people try to give a sign of goodwill about things that could be coming,” Fisher said.

            Fisher emphasized that prosecutors said Vandemoer did not take any of the money into his own bank account.

            “The checks were not made out to him, they were made out to Stanford,” Fisher said Tuesday. “Stanford has that money.”
            Some of the money was used to purchase boats for the team, according to court documents, but it’s unclear how much was spent.

            Because prosecutors don’t believe Vandemoer took any of the money for his own personal use, Rosen told Federal Court Judge Rya Zobel he was recommending a sentence of 18 months in jail, about half of the 33 to 41 months federal law suggests for this kind of crime.
            Vandemoer’s sentencing is scheduled for June 12.

            Stanford has been vague in its response about what it will do with the tainted money — which now totals $770,000 — saying it will be redirected to “an entity unaffiliated with Stanford.”
            “We do not have details at this point, but we want to do the right thing with funds that were contributed as part of a fraudulent activity,” Miranda said Thursday in an email.
            “Our intention is to ensure that the total amount originally provided to the sailing program is redirected.”
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            • #7
              Stanford Responds To Admissions Case

              Stanford's Response

              March 14, 2019
              Stanford information on college admissions case

              The U.S. Department of Justice has 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 former head sailing coach pleaded guilty to a charge in this case. This page provides information from Stanford University about these issues and will be updated as new information becomes available:

              Frequently asked questions

              What is Stanford doing in response to the revelations this week?

              The government’s charges included one against Stanford’s former head sailing coach, who was terminated from his Stanford employment and pleaded guilty to one count of racketeering conspiracy on Tuesday, March 12. The government did not find that any other Stanford employees were involved.

              The steps we are now taking include:

              We have launched a process to confirm that no other Stanford staff members, whether administrative or associated with any other Stanford teams, were involved in this kind of activity. We have no reason to believe they were, and no evidence so far suggests they were.

              Regarding the financial contributions that were made to the sailing team, we are working to determine the most appropriate way to redirect the funds to an entity unaffiliated with Stanford, consistent with the regulations concerning such gifts. We do not have details at this point, but we want to do the right thing with funds that were contributed as part of a fraudulent activity.

              We are reviewing everything we have learned in this case to determine additional steps we need to take regarding our policies and processes. We are committed to ensuring that financial contributions to Stanford receive the proper level of scrutiny, and to ensuring that donors are never under the impression that a financial contribution will lead to a favorable admission decision. More on our admission process is below.

              What does this mean for current members of the sailing team?

              We fully support the incredibly accomplished and hard-working student-athletes who are members of the Stanford sailing team. Their season continues as planned. Clinton Hayes, who is in his ninth year as an assistant coach at Stanford, is serving as interim head coach.

              It is critical to emphasize that there have been no allegations about any students who are members of the Stanford sailing team.

              Stanford also has confirmed the legitimate sailing credentials, prior to admission, of all Stanford sailing team members who received an athletic recommendation during the admission process, going back to 2011 (before the fraudulent activity of The Key Worldwide Foundation began, according to the government).

              How much money did The Key Worldwide Foundation contribute, and how many students were involved?

              We have continued researching this and at this point know that a total of $770,000 was contributed by the foundation to the sailing program, in the form of three separate gifts.

              The head sailing coach pleaded guilty on Tuesday to charges that he accepted financial contributions to the sailing program from this foundation in exchange for agreeing to recommend two prospective students for admission to Stanford. Neither of these two students subsequently completed the application process; therefore, neither was admitted to Stanford nor enrolled at Stanford. (One of them had previously gone through Stanford’s admission process, without any involvement of the head sailing coach, and had been denied admission.)

              Some of the funding from the foundation was associated with a third student, who was not named in the government’s charges on Tuesday. This student received no recommendation from the head sailing coach but was admitted to Stanford and is currently enrolled. The student has no affiliation with the sailing program. We are working to better understand the circumstances around this student and will take whatever actions are appropriate based on what we learn.

              How could Stanford not have known the fraudulent nature of these gifts to the sailing program?

              Absolutely fair question. Our process for reviewing gifts has rigorous checks and balances to prevent abuse, but the facts of this case are causing us to re-examine those checks and balances to determine what, if any, additional controls may be implemented to prevent such abuses in the future. This scheme was complex and sophisticated, and it used legal means (a gift from a foundation) to achieve a fraudulent purpose.

              How does the admission process work, including for student-athletes?

              Every student admitted to Stanford must meet the university’s high academic standards. There are no exceptions. Our admission office conducts a holistic review of each applicant, focused on academic excellence, intellectual vitality, extracurricular activity and personal context.

              For students who have special talents – artistic, athletic, musical or otherwise – those talents are factored into the process. In the case of athletics, we have a process through which coaches can identify the most promising athletic recruits, who also have strong academic credentials, for the consideration of the admission office. This athletic recommendation does not at all “reserve a spot” for an applicant to Stanford; it simply designates applicants who are judged by coaches to be competitive recruits. All applicants, including those who are recommended by coaches, still must meet Stanford’s very high academic bar for admission, and the final judgment is made by the admission office.

              It is well known that this high academic bar makes it harder for Stanford coaches to recruit, across the nation. But this is a critical, long-standing cornerstone of our admission process, and it is one on which we will never compromise.

              How do financial contributions to Stanford affect the admission process?

              We have many people, including alumni, who believe in Stanford’s mission and support it with their contributions. But a donation does not purchase a place at Stanford, and we work very hard to ensure that prospective donors to Stanford understand this.

              Stanford does not accept gifts if it knows a gift is being made with the intention of influencing the admission process. We are examining how to further strengthen our policies and protocols to try to ensure there is never a misunderstanding about this.

              The reality is that Stanford sends rejection letters to the vast majority of applicants from families of alumni and donors to the university. Admission to Stanford is highly competitive; our admission office conducts a rigorous review of applicants; and we absolutely insist that every admitted student meet Stanford’s high academic standards.

              The nationwide news has reinforced perceptions that selective colleges only cater to the elite, the wealthy, the connected. What is Stanford’s perspective on this?

              Many people don’t know about the focus that many selective colleges, including Stanford, place on providing opportunity to students who are not wealthy or do not have a family history of attending college. We conduct extensive outreach efforts to encourage applications to Stanford from high-achieving students of all backgrounds. At Stanford, nearly 20 percent of our admitted students each year are the first generation in their family to attend college.

              Financial aid is also a critical part of our approach to accessibility for students of all backgrounds and means. Stanford admits U.S. students without regard to their ability to pay, and the university provides financial aid such that every student admitted to Stanford can afford to attend. Families with annual incomes of under $125,000 pay no tuition at Stanford, and 82 percent of our students graduate without any student debt to follow them.

              What will Stanford do if it discovers that a student did not provide accurate information on an application for admission?

              Applicants to Stanford sign a statement verifying that the information they are providing is accurate. If it is found to be inaccurate, they can be disenrolled from the university or have their admission cancelled, as has regretfully happened in the past.

              If some of the funds provided to the sailing program already have been spent, how will Stanford redirect the funds to other sources?
              We are working through the details, but our intention is to ensure that the total amount originally provided to the sailing program is redirected
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