Potomac Man Arrested in Harvard Admissions Scheme

A Potomac businessman was charged with bribery by the U.S. Department of Justice for his role in the ongoing college admissions scandal.

Jie “Jack” Zhao, 61, and Peter Brand, 67, of Massachusetts, were arrested Nov. 16 and changed with conspiring to secure the admission of Zhao’s two sons into Harvard University in exchange for more than $1.5 million in bribes, according to a news release from the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts. Brand is the former Harvard fencing coach.

Zhao, the chief executive of a telecommunications company in Virginia, is expected to appear in federal court in Greenbelt.

“This case is part of our long-standing effort to expose and deter corruption in college admissions,” said U. S. Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Millions of teenagers strive for college admission every year. We will do our part to make that playing field as level as we possibly can.”

Added Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division, “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.”

According to the news release, the two men conspired to get Zhao’s sons into Harvard by having Brand recruit them for the fencing team. 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.

According to the news release, during the Spring of 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, Zhao is said to have donated $1 million to a fencing charity operated 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. Zhao allegedly then began making payments to, or for the benefit of, Brand, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In total, Zhao is said to have made $1.5 million in payments to Brand. Brand also is alleged to have recruited a younger son to that fencing team. According to the news release, Zhao allegedly paid for Brand’s car and paid part of Brand’s son’s college tuition. He also is said to have enabled Brand to sell his home and buy a more expensive residence.

The younger son enrolled in Harvard in 2107.

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Suzanne Pollak

About Suzanne Pollak

Suzanne is a freelance reporter with Montgomery Community Media. She has over 35 years professional experience writing for newspapers, magazines, non-profit newsletters and the web.

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