Ex- Harvard Fencing Coach, Telecom CEO Face Admissions Bribery Charges

A former Harvard fencing coach has been charged with bribery after allegedly taking kickbacks from a telecommunications CEO to secure the admission of the executive’s children to the Ivy League school as recruits.

Harvard Fencing BriberyPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Both Peter Brand and Jie “Jack” Zhao face charges of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery that claim Zhao paid Brand more than $1.5 million over several years. Wealthy parents who secured admissions for their children to elite universities have been a focus of federal prosecutors following 2019’s Operation Varsity Blues– the investigation that resulted in Lori Loughlin and other celebrity convictions.

U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Andrew Lelling, called the charges announced Monday as “part of our long-standing effort to expose and deter corruption in college admissions.”

Brand was terminated by the university in July 2019 after the Boston Globe reported on the 2016 sale of his family’s home to Zhao for around $440,000 above-market-value. Less than six months after the purchase, Zhao’s youngest son received a letter from Harvard informing him he was likely to be accepted as a fencing recruit.

Documents also show he paid Brand’s water, utility and mortgage bills in addition to giving him a $35,000 car loan before ultimately purchasing the home.

Harvard’s athletic director found that the transaction directly violated the university’s conflict of interest policy.

Zhao’s older son was first to be admitted to Harvard as a fencing recruit in 2013, following his father’s $1 million donation to a fencing charity, which paid $100,000 of that amount to a foundation Brand and his wife had recently established.

Zhao, CEO of iTalk Global Communications Inc., allegedly made another series of payments to Brand in 2015 that covered school tuition and loans for his children at Penn State University.

Representatives for both parties claim the two Zhao sons are “academic and fencing stars” and that the admissions processes were in compliance with NCAA practices and procedures.

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