Saturday, June 3, 2023

Former Harvard fencing coach, businessman acquitted of US bribery charges

BOSTON (Reuters) – A former Harvard University fencing coach and a Maryland businessman were acquitted on Wednesday of allegations that they secured coveted spots at the Ivy League school in exchange for $1.5 million in bribes for the executive’s two sons. had planned to do.

A federal jury in Boston found Peter Brandt, the former coach, and Ji “Jack” Zhao not guilty of all charges that prosecutors brought as part of their broader effort to stamp out corruption in the US college admissions process. was painted. ,

Defense attorneys argued that the payments Zhao had made to Brand were not bribes, but loans that he had since repaid, and that the government’s star witness, an alleged middleman, could not be trusted .

Zhao’s attorney, Bill Weinreb, said, “We are grateful for the jury’s service and for their justice in this case.”

The case was tried by some of the same prosecutors who helped secure many of the more than 50 convictions resulting from a recent college admissions scandal involving wealthy parents and coaches at other elite universities nationally. Were.

The Harvard case, however, was not related to the investigation that was dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues”, and was instead prompted by an investigative report published by the Boston Globe in 2019 in the wake of the wider scandal.

Prosecutors said Brand agreed to help Zhao, co-founder of a telecommunications company called iTalk Global Communications Inc., secure his sons’ admission to the highly selective school as recruiters in exchange for bribes. .

Prosecutors said Zhao helped cover the cost of a new sports car, Brand’s son’s student loans and college tuition, and Koch’s utility bills.

Prosecutors said that then in 2016, Zhao bought Brand’s old home for nearly double its estimated value, allowing Brand to purchase a $1.3 million condo in Cambridge. Zhao paid a $50,000 down payment for that condo and covered renovation costs.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond and Jonathan Oatis in Boston)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters,

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