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Prosecutors seek 13-month prison sentence for ex-Stanford coach in admissions scandal

Matthew Ormseth and Joel Rubin, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- The fate of John Vandemoer, the former sailing coach at Stanford University who participated in the college admissions scandal, will take one of several very different turns Wednesday when he is sentenced in a Boston courtroom.

If U.S. District Judge Rya W. Zobel abides by federal sentencing guidelines, she will put Vandemoer behind bars for somewhere between three and four years.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, initially told the judge they believe Vandemoer deserves 18 months in prison and then, last week, downgraded their recommendation to 13 months.

And then there is Vandemoer himself. Through his attorneys, he has made a bid for leniency, asking Zobel to spare him time in prison altogether.

How hard or easy Zobel comes down on the 41-year-old father of two rests in large part on how much she tries to deter others from committing similar crimes by making an example of Vandemoer in the high-profile case that has generated intense international interest.

Vandemoer is the first to be sentenced among the 50 coaches, parents and others charged in the federal investigation into what authorities say was a nearly decadelong, multimillion-dollar scheme to sneak children of wealthy families into top universities with bribes, doctored entrance exams and fake credentials. Like Vandemoer, many of the defendants have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing, while others have maintained their innocence.

 

In March, when investigators unveiled their case, Vandemoer had already agreed to plead guilty to a charge of racketeering conspiracy. Such decisions to concede quickly are, at least in part, strategic moves defendants make in hopes they will win leniency at sentencing for taking responsibility for their crimes.

Vandemoer admitted to conspiring with William "Rick" Singer, the college admissions consultant who has confessed to running the scheme. The sailing coach designated three children of Singer's clients as competitive sailors he was recruiting to the Stanford sailing program, regardless of whether they could actually sail.

For Vandemoer's efforts, Singer paid $610,000 to the Stanford sailing program.

Zobel's decision could foreshadow what awaits Singer, who has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing by the same judge.

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