Former Harvard Student Charged With Faking His Way Into School

The 23-year-old man duped Harvard out of thousands of dollars, prosecutors say.

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We'll call him the 'Admissions Crasher.' But Adam Wheeler didn't run around with Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, and Will Ferrell. No, he allegedly falsified his academic record to con Harvard University's admissions and financial aid offices, gaining admission to one of the world's most prestigious universities and duping the school out of thousands of dollars in financial aid and other grants. He's also accused of trying to bamboozle two other universities and a hospital.

Wheeler faces 20 charges, including larceny, identity fraud, and pretending to hold a degree, the Crimson reports. The 23-year-old allegedly fabricated academic achievements in his application to Harvard, telling admissions officers that he graduated from Phillips Academy Andover in Andover, Mass., and spent one year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But his story revealed far more than just admissions fraud, prosecutors say.

An English professor at Harvard, reviewing Wheeler's Rhodes Scholarship application in September 2009, suspected plagiarism, the Crimson says. Then, the school investigated Wheeler's Rhodes app, finding that he had forged two letters of recommendation and submitted a fake transcript filled with A's. The findings, paired with Wheeler telling the Rhodes investigators that he was leaving Harvard, led Harvard to delve deeper. In his transfer application to Harvard, Wheeler submitted five letters of recommendation, four of which were supposedly from MIT professors. The problem? The names of the authors of the letters were actually those of Bowdoin College professors, the report says.

Turns out Wheeler was a student at Bowdoin, but he was tossed out of school for plagiarizing essays. Bowdoin planned on suspending Wheeler for a semester, but he chose to transfer to Harvard instead. And in January, he actually applied to transfer to Brown University or Yale University—and tried to get an internship at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.—before the investigations uncovered all the details of Wheeler's alleged fabrications.

Nonetheless, Wheeler pleaded not guilty to the charges on Monday.

"He'll have his day in court," says Steven Sussman, Wheeler's lawyer. "He's not convicted of anything. He's a kid. He's never been in trouble before."

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