Peter Brand, a former Harvard University fencing coach, was arrested Monday along with a parent who federal prosecutors say conspired to pay the coach more than $1.5 million to secure spots at the school for his two sons as fencing recruits, reports the Wall Street Journal. Brand, who was dismissed last year, and the parent, Maryland-based businessman Jie “Jack” Zhao, denied wrongdoing. “Jack Zhao’s children were academic stars in high school and internationally competitive fencers who obtained admission to Harvard on their own merit,” said lawyer William Weinreb. The case adds to the scandals surrounding highly selective college admissions, though it is unrelated to the charges prosecutors brought against more than 50 people under Operation Varsity Blues. “This case is part of our longstanding effort to expose and deter corruption in college admissions,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling in Boston.
A criminal complaint says Brand recruited Zhao’s sons to the fencing team in exchange for money, facilitating their admission to the university. Brand allegedly told an unidentified co-conspirator in 2012 that the boys “don’t have to be great fencers.” In February 2013, prosecutors say, Zhao donated $1 million to a fencing charity run by a co-conspirator. Zhao’s older son was admitted to Harvard as a fencing recruit in December of that year. Soon after, the charity sent $100,000 to the Peter Brand Foundation, a charity established by Brand and his spouse. Zhao allegedly paid at least $1.5 million to Brand, including funds for his car, college tuition payments for his son and the mortgage on his house . Harvard investigated Brand last year after a Boston Globe article detailed Zhao’s purchase of the coach’s house for nearly $1 million, hundreds of thousands of dollars above its market value.