Former Harvard fencing coach and Maryland businessman indicted on bribery charges


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Date: December 7, 2020


Boston, MA - The former fencing coach at Harvard College and a Maryland businessman were indicted by a federal grand jury today in Boston with conspiring to secure the admission of the businessman's two sons to Harvard in exchange for bribes totaling more than $1.5 million, announced Joleen Simpson, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service - Criminal Investigation Division.

Peter Brand, of Cambridge, MA, and Jie "Jack" Zhao, of Potomac, MD, were indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery. Brand and Zhao were also each charged with one count of federal programs bribery. Brand and Zhao were arrested and charged by criminal complaint on Nov. 16, 2020.

According to the charging documents, Brand, the former head coach of men's and women's fencing at Harvard, conspired with Zhao, the chief executive of a telecommunications company, to facilitate the admission of Zhao's sons to Harvard by recruiting them to join the men's fencing team in exchange for money.

It is alleged that in or about May 2012, Brand told a co-conspirator, "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[.]" In February 2013, as part of the alleged scheme, Zhao made a purported donation of $1 million to a fencing charity founded by a co-conspirator. Zhao's older son was admitted to Harvard as a fencing recruit in December 2013, and matriculated in the fall of 2014. Shortly thereafter, the charity passed $100,000 on to the Peter Brand Foundation, a charitable entity established by Brand and his spouse. Thereafter, Zhao began making payments to, or for the benefit of, Brand.

In total, Zhao made over $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. Zhao allegedly paid for Brand's car, made college tuition payments for Brand's son, paid the mortgage on Brand's Needham 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. Zhao's younger son matriculated to Harvard in 2017. Brand allegedly did not disclose the payments to Harvard when recruiting Zhao's sons.

The charge of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. The charge of bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds provides for a sentence of up to 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss, whichever is greater. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based upon the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mackenzie A. Queenin of Lelling's Securities, Financial & Cyber Fraud Unit is prosecuting the case.

The details contained in the charging documents are allegations. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.