CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard’s former fencing coach was arrested and charged with bribery on Monday, accused by prosecutors of accepting $1.5 million from a rich businessman in trade for recruiting the person’s two sons for the college’s fencing crew.
Harvard fired the coach, Peter Brand, in 2019, after its personal investigation. The businessman, Jie “Jack” Zhao, 61, of Potomac, Md., was additionally arrested and charged with bribery.
Federal prosecutors stated that Mr. Zhao had paid for Mr. Brand’s automotive, made faculty tuition funds for the coach’s son, paid the mortgage on his home in a Boston suburb, and ultimately bought the home for inflated worth. After Mr. Brand purchased a costlier residence in Cambridge, prosecutors stated, Mr. Zhao paid to renovate it.
The two males have been charged with federal applications bribery, which carries a possible sentence of as much as 5 years in jail.
Mr. Zhao’s lawyer, William D. Weinreb, stated in an electronic mail: “Jack Zhao’s children were academic stars in high school and internationally competitive fencers who obtained admission to Harvard on their own merit. Both of them fenced for Harvard at the Division One level throughout their college careers. Mr. Zhao adamantly denies these charges and will vigorously contest them in court.”
Harvard began investigating Mr. Brand last year as universities around the country scrambled to respond to a sweeping federal investigation of college admissions fraud, which raised questions about athletic recruitment and whether coaches have enriched themselves by essentially selling recruiting slots.
The United States attorney’s office in Boston charged 50 people in the case, known as Operation Varsity Blues, including eight coaches and 33 parents, among them Hollywood celebrities and prominent business people.
Harvard was not directly implicated in the Varsity Blues investigation.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.