In Too Deep

Former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer, who agreed to accept two donations to the sailing program from Singer in exchange for two spots at the school (neither applicant finished the process), was the first of the 50 people indicted to be sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit racketeering. With the judge determining that he was the least culpable of anyone involved, because he never sought to enrich himself, he received two years of supervised release, the first six months of which he had to serve in home detention. He completed his sentence in December 2019.

Participating in the movie, Vandemoer recalls when Singer first approached him, to inquire about a spot for aspiring Cardinal Yusi “Molly” Zhao. The coach said his recruiting was about done for the year. Life went on, but Singer later got in touch to thank him—Molly had gotten in and her family wanted to donate $500,000 to the sailing program, seemingly apropos of nothing. When Vandemoer mentioned Singer to his bosses, he says, the head athletic director said, “‘Oh yeah, I know Rick.'” (A title card in the film notes that Stanford has denied that the AD knew of Singer or any inappropriate gifts to the university. It has since dispersed $770,000 in donations concerning two students who were not admitted to the school to various causes.)

Robert Fisher, Vandemoer’s lawyer, surmises that the $500,000—which seemingly came in without strings attached—”may have been a huge down payment to access to the campus sailing program.”

Prosecutors alleged that the Zhao family (pharmaceutical company billionaires in China) paid Singer a total of $6.5 million and then Singer gave $500,000 to the sailing program. No one in the Zhao family was charged with any crime, but Molly, who started Stanford in 2017, was expelled in April 2019. Per the Los Angeles Times, a spokesman for Stanford confirmed the university had expelled a student for submitting a false application that month and wouldn’t give a name, but said the student was connected to a $500,000 gift the school had received.)

An attorney for her mother told the New York Times in May 2019 that they were victims of Singer’s scheme and believed they were making a legitimate $6.5 million donation to the school.

“This generous act was not only done for the good of the school and its students, but also done out of the love and support of Yusi by a caring mother,” the lawyer said, who also noted that Molly applied and was accepted to a number of schools “through ordinary channels.”