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Former Harvard Fencing Coach Arrested Over Bribery Charges

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Former Harvard fencing coach Peter Brand and Maryland businessman Jie “Jack” Zhao were arrested on Monday on federal bribery charges. Brand allegedly conspired with Zhao to secure the admission of the latter’s two sons in exchange for money and other incentives. 

Going against the usual process, Brand recruited Zhao’s sons to the men’s fencing team. Court documents show that Brand spoke with a fellow conspirator and said, “Jack doesn’t need to take me anywhere and his boys don’t have to be great fencers. All I need is a good incentive to recruit them. You can tell him that.”

Zhao, who was a chief executive of a telecommunications company, allegedly followed through on that promise. The businessman reportedly paid Brand more than $1.5 million in bribes, including paying for Brand’s car, the mortgage on his Needham home that Zhao later bought for a higher price, and the renovation of Brand’s new and more expensive Cambridge residence.  

Such transactions, like Zhao’s $1 million donation to a fencing charity that then paid $100,000 to the Peter Brand Foundation, were not disclosed to Harvard officials. However, Harvard fired Brand in July 2019 for violating the university’s conflict-of-interest policy. 

Court Trial

If found guilty, Brand and Zhao will face up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine amounting to $250,000. However, Brand appeared in a federal court in Boston via video conference where he was released and ordered to pay a $100,000 bond.

Zhao denies all claims against him and will contest them in court. His attorney, William Weinreb, said, “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.”

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