Jie “Jack” Zhao is the latest college parent to get caught up in the FBI’s college admissions bribery scandal, according to the Boston Globe. The report claims Harvard University is investigating whether longtime fencing coach Peter Brand improperly recruited Zhao’s youngest son, who is currently a sophomore at the university.
Zhao’s oldest son was also a member of the fencing team and graduated last year.
The shadiness began when Zhao bought Brand’s three-bedroom home in Massachusetts for $989,500. The home had a market value of $549,300. 17 months later, Zhao sold the home for $665,000 after his song was admitted to Harvard as a member of the fencing team. Harvard is now conducting an “independent review” into the real estate deal with university spokeswoman Rachael Dane noting, “We are committed to ensuring the integrity of our recruitment practices.”
“Regardless of what we eventually learn about these allegations, this is not a time for complacency. Where there are opportunities to clarify practices and strengthen procedures, we must act on them, and do so with a sense of urgency,” a statement from the university noted. “This work is critically important to our academic mission and to the integrity of our athletics program and it has my full attention.”
While the deal raised immediate suspicion, Zhao claims that he did not purchase the home in order to help his son land at the university.
“I want to help Peter Brand because I feel so sorry he has to travel so much to go to fencing practice,” Zhao told the Globe. “[…] He did not ask me, ‘Jack, can you buy me a house?’ No. No. No. That is just not the situation.
“If I know the policies that the coach cannot sell to students or parents of student, I would not do it. I have no idea, right? I don’t think there’s any violation or anything.”
For what it’s worth, Brand’s home is just 12 miles from the Harvard campus.
The investigation into Brand and Zhao’s deal comes when a number of wealthy parents — including actresses Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman — are accused of conspiracy and bribery for paying their children’s way into prestigious universities across the country as part of an FBI investigation dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”