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Former Harvard Fencing Coach, Parent Indicted on Bribery Charges by Federal Grand Jury

Massachusetts Hall, an administrative building, is located in Harvard Yard.
Massachusetts Hall, an administrative building, is located in Harvard Yard. By Megan M. Ross
By Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writer

Former Harvard fencing coach Peter Brand and Harvard College parent Jie “Jack” Zhao have been indicted on bribery charges by a federal grand jury, the Justice Department announced in a press release Monday.

Federal authorities arrested Brand and Zhao in December, alleging they conspired to “facilitate” the admission of Zhao’s two sons to Harvard in exchange for bribes totaling over $1.5 million. The University dismissed Brand in July 2019 for violating its conflict of interest policy after Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay launched an investigation into Brand in April 2019.

The FAS investigation came after The Boston Globe reported Brand sold his Needham home to Zhao — a Maryland resident and parent of one then-current Harvard fencer and one former Harvard fencer — for hundreds of thousands of dollars above its market value. In addition to purchasing Brand’s residence, Zhao allegedly paid for Brand’s car, made college tuition payments for Brand’s son, and paid the mortgage on Brand’s home, according to the Justice Department’s press release.

The grand jury indicted Brand and Zhao on one count of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery, as well as one count of federal programs bribery, per the press release.

Douglas S. Brooks, Brand’s attorney, declined to comment on the indictment. He previously wrote to The Crimson that Brand did not break the law.

“The students were academic and fencing stars,” Brooks wrote in November. “Coach Brand did nothing wrong in connection with their admission to Harvard. He looks forward to the truth coming out in court.”

Zhao’s attorney, William Weinreb, separately declined to comment on the indictment. He previously wrote to The Crimson that Zhao will fight the charges in court.

“Jack Zhao’s children were academic stars in high school and internationally competitive fencers who obtained admission to Harvard on their own merit,” he wrote in November. “Both of them fenced for Harvard at the Division One level throughout their college careers. Mr. Zhao adamantly denies these charges and will vigorously contest them in court.”

FAS spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment on the indictment.

—Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at kevin.chen@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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