Delaware man pleads guilty to duping Harvard

By Denise Lavoie
AP Legal Affairs Writer / December 16, 2010

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WOBURN, Mass.—A 24-year-old Delaware man was ordered Thursday to repay Harvard nearly $46,000 after pleading guilty to larceny, identity fraud and other charges for faking his way into the Ivy League school.

Adam Wheeler was sentenced to 10 years of probation and to pay restitution to Harvard for the financial aid, scholarship money and academic awards he received fraudulently from the school.

Under the conditions of his probation, Wheeler is prohibited from having any contact with Harvard or its professors and cannot say he attended or graduated from the school.

Judge Diane Kottmyer also ordered him to continue to receive psychological counseling and barred him from profiting from the story of his Harvard scam during his probation.

Kottmyer rejected a bid from Wheeler's lawyer to impose a shorter period of probation and a lesser amount in restitution, saying Wheeler's fraud, which continued even after he was caught, showed an "element of compulsion" and a "lack of moral compass."

Assistant District Attorney John Verner recited a long pattern of deception by Wheeler, saying he conned his way into Harvard by falsely claiming he had attended the exclusive Phillips Academy prep school in Andover and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He was thrown out of Harvard in 2009 after he tried to get the school's endorsement for Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships. His application for the scholarships included a list of books he said he had co-authored, courses he had taught and lectures he had given -- all lies, authorities said.

A Harvard professor reviewing his applications found evidence he had plagiarized from another professor.

After he was kicked out of Harvard, Wheeler applied and was accepted to Stanford as a transfer student for the 2010-2011 school year. Stanford rescinded his admission after reading media reports about his arrest, Verner said.

Wheeler, of Milton, Del., actually attended Bowdoin College in Maine from 2005 to 2007 but was suspended for academic dishonesty. He applied to Harvard, falsely claiming he had attend Phillips Academy, was a straight-A student and had a perfect SAT score.

Wheeler, a tall, lanky man, spoke in a barely audible voice as he apologized to Harvard, his family and the court.

"I want to do what I can to undo this wrong," he said.

"I am ashamed and embarrassed by what I've done."