A former Harvard University fencing coach and a Maryland businessman have been arrested and charged with conspiring to circumvent the school’s admissions process, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston.Peter Brand, 67, a former Harvard fencing coach who was fired in 2019, is alleged to have taken more than $1.5 million in bribes to get the sons of Maryland businessman Jie “Jack” Zhao, 61, into Harvard by recruiting them to the school’s fencing team.In 2013, Zhao, who runs a telecommunications company, allegedly donated more than $1 million to a fencing charity run by Brand. That same year, one of Zhao’s sons was accepted to Harvard.The second son gained admission in 2017.”In total, Zhao made $1.5 million in payments to Brand, or for Brand’s personal benefit, even as Brand recruited Zhao’s younger son to the Harvard fencing team,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”Zhao allegedly paid for Brand’s car, made college tuition payments for Brand’s son, paid the mortgage on Brand’s Needham, Massachusetts, residence, and later purchased the residence for well above its market value, thus allowing Brand to purchase a more expensive residence in Cambridge that Zhao then paid to renovate,” the news release stated.“This case is part of our long-standing effort to expose and deter corruption in college admissions,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Millions of teenagers strive for college admission every year. We will do our part to make that playing field as level as we possibly can.”College Admissions Scandal: The Value of a DegreeCollege Admissions Scandal: The Value of a DegreeIn an earlier but separate case in March 2019, the U.S. Justice Department announced it had served indictments on 50 individuals who participated in a bribery scheme to get the children of wealthy families into top-tier schools. Naming it “Operation Varsity Blues,” Lelling said it was a multilevel, yearslong scam. Several families from both the United States and abroad were caught up in the Operation Varsity Blues scandal. All pleaded guilty, served time and paid fines, in addition to forfeiting the money they had paid in bribes. Reports: Millions Paid for Chinese Admissions to US Schools
The family of a Chinese student paid $6.5 million to a consultant to ensure her admission to Stanford University in California in 2017, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The family of Yusi “Molly” Zhao, who was admitted to Stanford’s sailing program in 2017, paid to get their daughter into the highly selective school, the paper reported.
Prosecutors said they did not believe the schools were directly involved or knew of the pay-for-admission scam.According to Lelling’s office, the most recent case dates to at least 2012 when Brand allegedly spoke to Zhao about his sons.Brand and Zhao were expected in federal court Monday — with Brand making an initial appearance in Boston and Zhao in Greenbelt, Maryland, according to the Department of Justice.An attorney representing Zhao said his client denies the charges and will fight them. “Jack Zhao’s children were academic stars in high school and internationally competitive fencers who obtained admission to Harvard on their own merit,” attorney William Weinreb said in a statement emailed to VOA and other media outlets. “Both of them fenced for Harvard at the Division I level throughout their college careers. Mr. Zhao adamantly denies these charges and will vigorously contest them in court.” If convicted of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, the two could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.