The former fencing coach at Harvard and a wealthy Maryland businessman were arrested Monday on accusations that the coach took $1.5 million in bribes in exchange for helping the businessman get his two sons into the Ivy League school as recruited fencers, the AP reports. Peter Brand, 67, who was fired by Harvard last year, and Jie “Jack” Zhao, 61, of Potomac, Maryland, face a charge of conspiracy to commit federal programs bribery. Their arrest comes more than a year after a newspaper reported that Brand sold his home for nearly double its assessed value to Zhao. Zhao also paid for Brand’s car and helped cover Brand's son's college tuition, prosecutors said. “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,” the head of the FBI Boston Division said in an emailed statement.
The case is separate from the recent college admissions scandal in which an admission consultant ran a scheme to get kids into top universities across the country with rigged test scores or fake athletic credentials. An attorney for Zhao said the man denies the accusations and will vigorously contest them 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. Both of them fenced for Harvard at the Division One level throughout their college careers," a lawyer said in an email. And Brand's lawyer said the former coach "looks forward to the truth coming out in court.” “The students were academic and fencing stars. Coach Brand did nothing wrong in connection with their admission to Harvard," he said in an email. (Much more here, including an all-caps note from a suspicious city assessor.)