Former Harvard Student Indicted For Falsified Applications, Identity Fraud

Courtesy of Cara O'Brien

Former Harvard student Adam Wheeler, 23, was indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree.

UPDATED 12:42 a.m.

A former Harvard student was indicted Monday for falsifying information in his applications to Harvard and for several scholarships.

Adam Wheeler, 23, was indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree. Wheeler was allegedly "untruthful" in his applications to the University and in scholarship applications, according to a statement released Monday by Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone.

As a senior in September 2009, Wheeler allegedly submitted fraudulent applications for the Harvard endorsement for both the United States Rhodes Scholarship and the Fulbright Scholarship.

His application packet included fabricated recommendations from Harvard professors and a college transcript detailing perfect grades over three years. Wheeler's resume listed numerous books he had co-authored, lectures he had given, and courses he had taught, according to authorities.

Wheeler's transgressions came to light when a Harvard professor noticed similarities between Wheeler's work and that of another professor during the application review process for the Rhodes Scholarship. The professor then compared the two pieces and voiced concerns that Wheeler plagiarized nearly the entire piece.

Wheeler’s file was referred to University officials, who decided—upon discovering the falsified transcript—to open a full review of Wheeler’s academic file. Wheeler was invited to present his case at a disciplinary hearing convened by University officials, but decided to await the decision at his home in Delaware rather than attend the meeting, according to the press release.

University officials and Harvard police then discovered that Wheeler had never attended MIT or Phillips Academy in Andover, as his file claimed. In addition, Wheeler’s SAT scores were not perfect, as conveyed in a College Board document in his file.

Wheeler's recommendations—allegedly signed by professors at Bowdoin College, which Wheeler attended before transferring to Harvard—were falsely attributed to individuals who said that they did not know Wheeler and had not written the letters, according to the press release.

The defendant is alleged to have "stolen over $45,000 in grants, scholarship and financial aid money awarded to him on applications and submissions of documents that were based on lies and reproductions of other people’s hard work,” Leone said in the statement.

This is not the first time Wheeler has fallen under scrutiny for offenses in an academic setting. He was suspended from Bowdoin due to academic dishonesty.

Wheeler was a member of the Class of 2010 who transferred to Harvard at the beginning of his sophomore year and became a resident of Kirkland House. An English concentrator, he received a Hoopes Prize in the spring of 2009 for a project that he had completed during his junior year.

“He was a good guy who didn’t talk about his academics or his life history much, but he came off as very smart. We just allowed him his privacy,” a source close to Wheeler, who did not wish to be named, said in an interview Monday.

Wheeler did not receive a Harvard degree, according to Jeff Neal, spokesperson for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The defendant will be arraigned Tuesday at the Middlesex Superior Court.

—Staff writer Xi Yu can be reached at xyu@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Julie M. Zauzmer can be reached at jzauzmer@college.harvard.edu.

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