Ex-Harvard Student, Adam Wheeler, Pleads Not Guilty to Charges of Fabricating Academic History

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 4:22 p.m.

Adam B. Wheeler—the former Harvard student who was indicted Monday for fabricating an elaborate academic history that led him to prestigious scholarly honors—pled not guilty to 20 charges during his arraignment at the Middlesex Superior Court this morning.

Recounting Wheeler’s “life of lies and deceit,” Assistant District Attorney John C. Verner told Clerk Magistrate Michael A. Sullivan that Wheeler submitted fraudulent documents—including plagiarized essays, letters of recommendation, false transcripts, and fake SAT scores—to Harvard College, among other institutions.

Wheeler, 23, was indicted yesterday on counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree. He was allegedly "untruthful" in his applications to Harvard and in various applications, such as the Rhodes and the Fulbright Scholarships, according to a statement released Monday by Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone.

Prosecutors said that Wheeler defrauded Harvard out of over $45,000 in the form of an $8,000 research grant, $6,000 in English prizes, and $31,806 in financial aid.


"Mr. Wheeler pled not guilty. He'll have his day in court," said Steven Sussman, the defendant's lawyer, who was surrounded by a thick crowd of reporters and cameramen. "He's not convicted of anything."

"He's a kid," he added. "He's never been in trouble before."

According to Sussman, the statutory maximum of jail time, which Wheeler may receive if convicted, is five years for each felony count and one year for each misdemeanor. Wheeler has been charged with a total of 20 counts.

Wheeler waived rendition, which allows Mass. authorities to retrieve Wheeler from another state without undergoing interstate hearing procedures. He will be held on a $5,000 cash bail. If he makes his bail, the defendant must surrender his passport and cannot leave Massachusetts until his next court appearance on June 9.

In addition, if he makes bail, Wheeler must stay away from Harvard, Phillips Academy in Andover, Yale, Brown, and McLean Hospital—all locations that have been intertwined into his web of fabrications.

Since leaving Harvard, Wheeler allegedly applied to McLean Hospital in January for an internship, claiming that he was taking the spring semester off from the University to work on two scholarly books.

According to an official statement from McLean Hospital regarding the situation, Wheeler had applied for a student visitor program, but the hospital's standard verification process for applicants revealed that Wheeler had provided "fraudulent information regarding his credentials and student status at Harvard University."

“McLean immediately terminated Mr. Wheeler’s application and notified Harvard about his fraudulent use of the University’s name,” the statement said. “McLean cooperated fully with the Harvard University Police Department’s investigation and is appreciative of its swift action to prevent additional fraud.”

That same month, Wheeler allegedly submitted transfer applications to Yale and Brown with fraudulent documents that claimed the defendant was currently employed by McLean Hospital as an intern. He also allegedly turned in fake recommendations from a hospital employee named Laura Hsu, and from Kirkland House Resident Dean David A. Smith, who had originally informed the defendant of the plagiarism accusation, according to Verner.

When Wheeler's parents received a telephone call from the Yale admissions office regarding his transfer application, the parents forced Wheeler to reveal that his application was false and that he had been thrown out of Harvard, according to Verner.