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Former Harvard fencing coach arrested on charges he took bribes from a Maryland businessman to help the guy's kids get into Harvard

Peter Brand, 67, of Cambridge, and Jie "Jack" Zhao, 61, of Potomac, MD, were arrested by federal agents today on a charge of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery over bribes Zhao allegedly paid Brand and charities he controlled to get Zhao's sons accepted to Harvard.

The bribes included Zhao buying Brand's Needham house - which he later sold for a loss - making his car payments and paying for Brand's own son's tuition.

Unlike in that other, wider college-acceptance case, the one involving Felicity Huffman, the two teens actually were proficient in the sport for which they were recruited. The older brother even served as captain of the Harvard fencing team.

According to an affidavit by an IRS agent on the case, Brand turned to bribery when he and his wife were running into financial difficulties - to the point that she sent him e-mail telling him to stop using his debit card after he used it to buy some stuff at Sudbury Farms when their account was down to just $100.

Zhao allegedly paid a total of $1.5 million in bribes to get his sons into Harvard, although the affidavit says Brand never got about $900,000 of that amount. Zhao paid $1 million to a fencing foundation with the understanding that the money would then be transferred to Brand, but the head of that foundation only funneled roughly $100,000 to a charity set up by Brand, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit does not name that man, but instead identifies him as "Co-conspirator 1" - and says he has cooperated with investigators under a deal in which anything he told them cannot be used against him. Most of Zhao's original contribution to the fencing foundation remains in an escrow account, the affidavit state.

Brand was Harvard fencing coach from 1999 until 2019, when the Globe wrote about his relationship with Zhao and Harvard fired him.

Innocent, etc.

Complete affidavit (2.3M PDF).

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Comments

What happened to "giving the school a building"? Has Harvard lowered its standards?

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than to donate a building.

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If your kid can't get in to Harvard without cheating, despite an army of tutors and test prep and coaches and everything else rich people lavish on their walking ego monuments, how will said kid manage to keep up with the work?

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And that's when mommykins and daddykins call the dean.

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The fact that so many people get into Harvard and other Ivy-league and hi quality universities due to either cheating, or if the kids' parents have some sort of pull practically defies belief. G. H. W. Bush went to Yale University, and so did G. W. Bush, in spite of being a C student. That says something right there.

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They'll pay someone else to do their work for them.

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The hard work is getting in.

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I guess we've found something Swirly doesn't know about.

If the young Harvard freshmen whose parents cheated to get them in weren't able to do college-level work yet, they wouldn't be alone in remedial classes there.

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We shall sleep through all the lectures
and cheat on the exams
and we'll pass
and be forgotten with the rest.

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The number of highly qualified applicants to Harvard is many times more than there are admissions slots. These two kids may well have been more than able to keep up with classes. Harvard, MIT, Stanford, etc. are what I call "roll of the dice" schools - that is, if you are a straight A student with stellar SAT scores, tons of extra-curricular activities and volunteer work, it's still a crap shoot as to whether or not you're accepted.

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I think this is the best explanation. I doubt that it’s as easy to do the course work as most of the posts above suggest, but the number of freshman seats Harvard has to offer is a whole lot smaller that the number of applicants who could do the work if they were accepted.

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In this specific case, it is more likely than not that the rich dad was concerned about his children's race negatively affecting their chances at getting into Harvard or another Ivy League institution.

As Adam pointed out, these kids were more than proficient at fencing, and from the Globe's reporting last year, also good at academics. Such kids would have no difficulty at all getting into a prestigious college (not necessary Harvard) -- but only if they were any race other than Asian. This tells you a lot about our society...

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such kids would have no difficulty at all at getting into some prestigious school...but they wanted to go to Harvard specifically and dad had enough money to do it. But that really does tell you a lot about our society...

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En guarde touché. Hee hee. Magoo always wanted to say that. Magoo.

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So what happens to the kids?