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Report: Feds probe sale of coach’s home to prospect’s father

BOSTON — A federal grand jury is investigating the sale of the Harvard fencing coach’s suburban Boston home for nearly double its assessed value to a man whose son was later admitted to the school and joined the team, according to a newspaper report.

A subpoena reviewed by The Boston Globe ordered the town of Needham’s Board of Assessors to provide documents and records about the property sold by longtime coach Peter Brand in 2016.

Needham Director of Assessing Chip Davis told the newspaper he received the subpoena in April and sent federal authorities the information they requested, according to a report published late Tuesday.

Brand received nearly $1 million in 2016 for the three-bedroom house on a quarter-acre (1,000 square meters) in Needham, which was assessed at the time at $549,300. The buyer, Jie Zhao, whose older son and wife also attended Harvard, never lived in the home and sold it for a steep loss 17 months later.

Harvard said in April that it had retained outside counsel to review the circumstances surrounding the sale.

The school said at the time that the allegations appeared to be unrelated to the sweeping college admissions bribery case , in which dozens of prominent parents have been accused of paying a consultant to bribe athletic coaches and rig test scores to get their kids into prestigious universities across the country.

Zhao, a Maryland businessman, has denied buying Brand’s home to help his son get into the school. Zhao told the Globe in an interview in April that he bought it as an investment and as a favor to Brand.

Zhao’s attorney said Wednesday that federal authorities have not contacted Zhao. Attorney William Weinreb said they have “no reason to believe he is under investigation.”

“His children were admitted to Harvard entirely on their own merit,” Weinreb said in an email.

A lawyer for Brand told the Globe that he is also unaware of any federal investigation.

“To be clear, coach Brand unequivocally denies any wrongdoing,” Douglas Brooks said.

Both the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office in Boston said they could not confirm or deny the existence of an investigation.

 

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