Affidavit sheds new light on Harvard fencing scandal | New
On Monday, court records in support of federal prosecutors’ case against a former Harvard fencing coach and a parent paint a picture of two men in financial difficulty, respectively, determined to gain admission to his son in college.
An affidavit filed on Monday aims to describe the men’s motives for allegedly attempting to play with the college admissions system. Federal authorities arrested parent Jie “Jack” Zhao and former trainer Peter Brand on Monday. on corruption charges.
As part of the program, Zhao reportedly donated $ 1 million to a fencing charity to launder money to the coach, in addition to the direct payments he made to fund the lifestyle. of the coach.
The affidavit indicates that these payments included $ 8,428.66 to pay the tuition fees of the coach’s son; $ 32,339.92 to repay the son’s university loans; $ 119,051.52 to pay off a mortgage on the coach’s house; $ 2,573.45 to pay his water and sewer bills; $ 34,563.25 to pay for his car; $ 50,000 to help the coach buy a condominium; $ 154,626.41 to finance the renovations made to the condominium; and $ 989,500 to buy the old coach house, $ 440,000 more than its market value.
Brand did not disclose to Harvard the payments Zhao made to him, or that Zhao made to fund his expenses, according to the affidavit.
The charges mark the latest development in a track and field admissions scandal that made headlines in April 2019, when the Boston Globe reported that Zhao, a Maryland resident who is the co-founder of the telecommunications company iTalk Global Communications Inc., purchased Brand’s Needham, Mass. house in 2016 for hundreds of thousands of dollars more than its market value. Soon after the transaction, Zhao’s youngest son was admitted to Harvard College as a recruited fencer.
Zhao’s eldest son graduated from college in 2018; her other son is expected to graduate in 2021, according to a Harvard yearbook.
The Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Claudine Gay launched a investigation in the real estate transaction between Brand and Zhao shortly after it was first reported. Three months later, Harvard fired Brand, believing he had violated the University’s conflict of interest policy. Separately that summer, a federal grand jury also opened an investigation into the 2016 real estate transaction.
Conspiracy to bribe federal programs – the charge against Zhao and Brand – carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000 or twice the gain or loss. total financial loss, whichever is greater.
An affidavit in support of the criminal complaint filed Nov. 13 by Elizabeth Keating – a special agent in the Criminal Investigations Division of the Internal Revenue Service – reveals that Brand allegedly accepted around $ 1.5 million to secure the admission of Zhao’s two sons to Harvard. Keating wrote that she had “probable reasons” to believe that Zhao and Brand colluded from 2012 to 2017 to secure the place of Zhao’s sons at Harvard College as recruited fencers in return for financial support. to Brand.
In an emailed statement, Zhao’s attorney, William Weinreb, wrote that Zhao will challenge the charges in court.
“Jack Zhao’s children were high school academic stars and internationally competitive fencers who gained admission to Harvard on their own merit,” he wrote. “Both fenced for Harvard at the Division One level throughout their college careers. Mr. Zhao categorically denies these accusations and will vigorously challenge them in court.”
Douglas S. Brooks, Brand’s attorney, wrote in an email that Brand had not broken the law.
“The students were academic and fencing stars,” he wrote. “Coach Brand did nothing wrong with their admission to Harvard. He impatiently waits for the truth to emerge in court.
Harvard spokeswoman Rachael Dane declined to comment on Monday’s arrests.
Keating wrote in the affidavit that a Virginia-based fencing trainer who trained Zhao’s two sons while in high school – cited as “Co-Conspirator 1” – facilitated the scheme by using an agency fencing charity he ran to launder Zhao’s payments to Marque. Although “CC-1” initially helped facilitate the deal, he also allegedly siphoned off the money Zhao donated to cover his personal expenses, including his own son’s tuition at Harvard College.
CC-1 provided information to the government regarding the scheme in return for immunity from prosecution, according to the affidavit. Although CC-1 is not named in the affidavit, the Boston Globe identified him as Alexander Ryzhik, director of the Virginia Academy of Fencing and president of the National Fencing Foundation.
Less than two weeks after Brand’s wife informed him that they were “maximizing our line of credit,” Brand suggested to CC-1 in a text message that he would recruit Zhao’s sons in exchange for benefits. personal, according to the affidavit.
“Jack doesn’t need to take me anywhere and his boys don’t need to be great fencers. All I need is a good incentive to recruit them, ”Brand wrote on May 2, 2012.
While Zhao and CC-1 offered to Brand that Zhao contribute to Harvard’s fencing program in exchange for recruiting Zhao’s sons, Brand refused. Instead, Brand asked Zhao to provide him with personal financial benefits, according to an account of the arrangement that CC-1 provided to investigators.
On February 19, 2013, Zhao donated approximately $ 1 million to CC-1 fencing charity. On December 13, 2013, Zhao’s eldest son was admitted to the Harvard Class of 2018. Later that day, Zhao emailed Brand, “Hi boss … It’s official now. I just want to thank you for what you did, really appreciate it, ”according to the affidavit.
On October 10, 2014, CC-1 Fencing Charity donated $ 100,000 to a newly established nonprofit on Brand’s behalf, funded by Zhao’s previous donation. Zhao then asked CC-1 to reimburse him for the remaining $ 900,000 he had donated to the charity. But CC-1 refused to return the money, instead using it for his own personal expenses, including $ 31,571.75 for his son’s tuition at Harvard.
After CC-1 refused to return the money, according to the affidavit, Zhao began making direct payments to Brand, including the 2016 purchase of Brand’s house.
In addition to buying Brand’s house at an inflated price, Zhao funded Brand’s car purchase, Brand’s son’s tuition, mortgage for Brand’s residence in Needham, Massachusetts. , and the renovation of his Cambridge condominium, according to the affidavit.
In the summer of 2016, Brand began recruiting Zhao’s youngest son to the Harvard fencing team. Several months later, on May 3, Zhao purchased Brand’s house in Needham, Massachusetts. Brand used the money to buy a condominium in Cambridge for $ 1.3 million.
The inflated purchase price prompted city officials to inspect the home.
“SOLD TO THE VIRGINIA BUYER FOR $ 990K ??? THE PLACE IS VINTAGE 1960 IN BAD SHAPE ??? ” wrote a city appraiser. “THAT DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE.”
On June 24, 2016, Brand emailed an associate director at Harvard Athletics, informing him that he had offered a recruiting position to Zhao’s youngest son and four other potential students, according to the affidavit.
On September 20, 2016, Brand emailed a Harvard admissions official asking if Harvard had made a decision regarding the youngest son’s candidacy and that of another potential recruit. All recruited athletes have their applications reviewed by Harvard’s full admissions committee.
“We’ve looked at these two before and it looks good for both,” the admissions manager replied.