Court: Wheeler Violated Probation

Updated: 7:08 a.m.

WOBURN, Mass.—Adam B. Wheeler, who pleaded guilty last year to charges related to his fraudulent acceptance to Harvard, will undergo psychiatric evaluation in a locked hospital facility before the court decides in December whether he should serve further jail time.

Wheeler was sent to jail, without bail, last Wednesday for violating the condition of his probation that prohibits him from identifying himself as a former or current Harvard student. While applying in July for an internship at U.S. Green Data, Inc., a company that provides data to help clients evaluate green projects, Wheeler submitted a resume claiming that he had attended Harvard.

“It does appear that Mr. Wheeler suffers from a mental illness, and the conduct for which he stands convicted is a product at least in part of that mental illness,” Superior Court Justice Diane M. Kottmyer said during Thursday’s hearing.

Wheeler spent a month in jail before his father paid his bail when he was first arrested in May 2010. His probation agreement, which also forbids him from visiting University property or using the story of his crimes to turn a profit, stipulates that he will not serve the remainder of his two and a half year prison sentence if he abides by the itemized conditions.

In light of the recent violation, Assistant District Attorney John C. Verner and probation officer Angelo Gomez Jr. advised Kottmyer on Thursday to immediately sentence Wheeler to the 29 months of his prison sentence which he has yet to serve. But Wheeler’s attorney Steven A. Sussman opposed the recommendation, arguing that his client should remain on probation and be required to follow a stricter regimen of psychiatric therapy.

Kottmyer remanded Wheeler to Bridgewater State Hospital, a facility in southeastern Massachusetts that houses the criminally insane and inmates whose sanity is under evaluation. Mental health professionals will observe him there for 40 days. At a follow-up hearing on December 23, Kottmyer said she will determine a penalty that would “both protect society from any future crimes or any violations of the probation, as well as address any particular issues that Mr. Wheeler [faces].”

The recent probation violation came to light when a Kirkland House alum, who works at U.S. Green Data, Inc., received Wheeler’s cover letter and resume, which had been emailed as part of an application for an unpaid internship. In the material, Wheeler claimed to have been a graduate student in English at Harvard from 2007 to 2009. Having heard about Wheeler’s case before, the employee forwarded the application to Harvard officials, who then alerted the district attorney’s office.

Wheeler made headlines in May 2010 when he was accused of forging letters of recommendation, falsifying transcripts, and fabricating SAT scores to gain transfer admission to Harvard and to receive more than $45,000 in grants, prizes, and financial aid. At the year’s end, Wheeler pleaded guilty to 20 felony and misdemeanor counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree.

Wheeler was admitted to Harvard as a sophomore transfer student in 2007. In his application, he claimed to have completed his first year at MIT and to have graduated from the prestigious private high school Phillips Academy in Andover. In fact, Wheeler had graduated from a public high school in Delaware and attended Bowdoin College in Maine for two years before he was suspended for academic dishonesty. His Harvard application also included forged recommendation letters from professors and an Andover counselor, and the lie that he had earned a perfect score on the SAT.

Once he enrolled at Harvard, Wheeler won a Hoopes Prize in his junior year for a paper that prosecutors later revealed to have been plagiarized. In his senior year, Wheeler was caught submitting a plagiarized essay while applying for the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships, sparking an investigation that eventually fell in the hands of state police. Aware that he was under suspicion, Wheeler left Harvard. But he continued to apply for transfer admission to top-tier universities. Wheeler gained admission to Stanford and Williams College before his criminal indictment came to light.

—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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