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Following Alleged Probation Violation, Adam Wheeler Returned to Jail

By Xi Yu and Julie M. Zauzmer, Crimson Staff Writers

UPDATED: 2:00 a.m. 11/10/11

WOBURN, Mass.—Adam B. Wheeler, a former Harvard student who pleaded guilty in December to faking his way into Harvard through falsified transcripts, standardized test scores, and letters of recommendation—as well as bilking the University out of more than $45,000—was put back in jail Wednesday without bail after a brief hearing in the Middlesex Superior Court.

Wheeler, who was sentenced to ten years of probation in December, allegedly violated the condition of his probation that prohibits him from portraying himself as a Harvard student or claiming that he ever attended Harvard.

Probation officer Angelo Gomez Jr. said in court today that Wheeler broke violated that term when he submitted a resume to U.S. Green Data, Inc. that said he had attended Harvard.

Gomez and Middlesex Assistant District Attorney John C. Verner presented the case to Superior Court Justice Diane M. Kottmyer, arguing that Wheeler was a flight risk and needed to be held without bail until he appears for a hearing about the allegation.

Wheeler’s attorney Steven A. Sussman did not contest the allegation but argued that his client should not be held in jail because he needed to be working and was emotionally “fragile.”

When he pleaded guilty late last year, Wheeler was a part-time employee at a non-profit organization in Boston. Sussman said in court today that Wheeler later worked full-time for that non-profit but then lost the job in July.

Sussman said that after Wheeler lost his job, he felt financial pressure to pay rent for his apartment in Somerville and the $45,806 restitution to Harvard ordered by the court. Wheeler had only just found a new job—performing manual labor—a week ago before he was summoned to court today for this alleged violation.

Sussman said that Wheeler was not a flight risk because he voluntarily appeared in court on Wednesday.

Sussman also said that he believes his client will return to court whenever he is called back. Going to jail would be particularly harmful for Wheeler because his absence could cost him his job and return him to a precarious financial state, Sussman said.

“I think he realizes that he needs to step back from this intellectual pursuit [for a job],” Sussman added, noting that Wheeler is still receiving psychological therapy.

Kottmyer at first expressed reluctance to hold Wheeler, saying that the Cambridge jail is currently overcrowded. But she said that she was convinced that the threat of a two-and-a-half year prison stay—which Wheeler faces if he is found to have violated his probation—as well as his mental health, indicate that he should be held until his next hearing date, which has been set for Nov. 17.

Wheeler’s parents, who reside in Delaware and were in court today, declined to comment.

Wheeler made headlines in May 2009 when he was indicted for faking his way into Harvard and then scooping up several prestigious grants and prizes, largely through forgery and fraud.

He was accepted to Harvard as a transfer student in 2007, based on his application, which claimed he had earned a perfect SAT score and perfect grades as a high school student at the elite Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and as a freshman at MIT. In fact, he had been a good but unremarkable student at a public high school in Delaware. He had then attended Bowdoin College in Maine, where he was suspended in his second year for academic dishonesty.

At Harvard, Wheeler won a Hoopes Prize as a junior, English department awards, and a David Rockefeller International Experience Grant—all using plagiarized essays. His deceits were uncovered in the fall of his senior year at Harvard, when he applied for Harvard’s nomination for the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships and was caught turning in an essay plagiarized from English Professor Stephen Greenblatt as his own work.

Alerted that he was under suspicion, Wheeler quickly left Harvard. But he did not stop his frauds.

He applied to Yale, Brown, Stanford, and a maritime program at Williams College, as well as internship programs at Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital and the magazine The New Republic, claiming on all those applications that he was a Harvard undergraduate. Stanford and Williams accepted him as a transfer student.

He was arrested in May 2010 on 20 felony and misdemeanor counts including identity fraud and larceny—for the $45,806 in grants, prizes, and Harvard financial aid which he received during his time as an undergraduate at the College.

—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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CrimeAdam Wheeler