A former Harvard fencing coach was arrested Monday for allegedly taking a bribe from a parent who wanted to secure spots for his two kids at the Ivy League school, prosecutors said Monday. Peter Brand, the 67-year-old former fencing coach at Harvard, and the parent, Jie Zhao, a 61-year-old Maryland businessman, were both charged with conspiracy and arrested on Monday, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts. The pair’s arrest is not associated with the infamous “Varsity Blues” scandal that ensnared Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.
Prosecutors allege Zhao tried to game the college-admissions process by paying Brand more than $1.5 million in bribes to secure admissions for his two sons as fencing recruits in 2013. According to court documents, Brand allegedly 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, prosecutors allege Zhao donated $1 million to a fencing charity operated by a co-conspirator and 10 months later, his older son was admitted to Harvard as a fencing recruit. Shortly thereafter, prosecutors state the charity passed $100,000 on to the Peter Brand Foundation, a charitable entity established by Brand. Zhao’s younger son was admitted to Harvard in 2017. In addition to cash, Zhao allegedly paid for Brand’s car, made college tuition payments for the former fencing coach’s son, and even paid the mortgage on his residence.