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Maryland CEO federally charged for bribing former Harvard coach in exchange for sons admission

Newspaper: Harvard pulls student offers over online comments
Posted at 9:41 AM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 09:41:31-05

GREENBELT, Md. — A Potomac, Maryland businessman and a former head coach at Harvard University have been federally charged in connection to an admissions scandal.

Peter Brand, 67, is accused of taking nearly $1.5 million in bribes from Jie “Jack” Zhao, the CEO of iTalk Global Communications, in exchange for Zhao's two sons being accepted into Harvard and joining the university's fencing team.

“Today’s arrests show how Peter Brand’s and Jie Zhao’s plan to circumvent the college admissions process ended up backfiring on both of them. Now they are accused of exchanging more than $1.5 million in bribes for their own personal benefit,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.

Charging documents allege that in 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 operated by a co-conspirator.

Ten-months later, Zhao’s older son was admitted to Harvard as a fencing recruit.

Shortly after, the charity passed $100,000 on to the Peter Brand Foundation.

As Zhao's youngest son got accepted in 2017, he allegedly paid off several of Brand’s debts including his car, his son's college tuition, and the mortgage on his Needham residence.

Prosecutors say Zhao ended up purchasing that same home for well above market value, which enabled Brand to buy a more pricier residence in Cambridge that Zhao then paid to renovate.

Brand never disclosed these payments to Harvard when recruiting Zhao’s sons, according to charging documents.

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.