Maryland CEO paid $1.5 million in bribes to get sons in Harvard, prosecutors say

Jie "Jack" Zhao of the telecom firm iTalk Global Communications reportedly paid former Harvard fencing coach.

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A Maryland CEO paid at least $1.5 million in bribes to help get his children admitted to Harvard University, according to a federal criminal complaint. 

Jie “Jack” Zhao reportedly paid former Harvard fencing coach Peter Brand to recruit his sons. 

Jie “Jack” Zhao reportedly paid at least $1.5 million in bribes to help get his children admitted to Harvard University, according to a federal criminal complaint. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Brand coached both the men’s and women’s fencing teams from 1999 to 2019, when he was fired after an internal investigation. His attorney alleges that his client “did nothing wrong.” 

An attorney for Zhao, chief executive officer of the telecom firm iTalk Global Communications, also denied the charges in an email to CNN on Monday. 

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“Jack Zhao’s children were academic stars in high school and internationally competitive fencers who obtained admission to Harvard on their own merit,” attorney Bill Weinreb said in a statement. “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.”

This is the latest arrest in the national college admissions scam that captivated the nation as dozens of wealthy and celebrity parents were reportedly paying staff members of coveted schools, as well as SAT administrators, to cheat on behalf of their children. 

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Actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman both served short terms in prison for their involvement in campus-related schemes. 

According to CNN, the latest complaint alleges that Zhao made charitable donations to the fencing charity of one of Brand’s co-conspirators, which later paid him $100,000 through another non-profit. Brand facilitated the enrollment of Zhao’s eldest son in the prestigious university, and he graduated in 2018. 

For his second son, the payments were allegedly much more expensive. Zhao reportedly bought Brand a car, a house, and he renovated another house. The report did not note if the younger son completed Harvard or if he remains enrolled at the college. 

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