Remember Adam Wheeler? He’s the surprisingly handsome former Harvard student who got away with larceny and identity fraud all the way until the end of his senior year at Harvard, like some undergraduate Frank Abagnale Jr. Having garnered $40,000 in grants and prizes based on fake résumés, forged endorsements, and plagiarism, he pleaded guilty this afternoon to twenty misdemeanor and felony counts. He was sentenced to ten years probation, ordered to make restitution of $45,806 to Harvard, and told to stay in psychological counseling.
It’s surprising that anyone would lie about so much, but what’s more shocking is how much he actually got away with: Wheeler conceded today that he gained admission to Harvard by fabricating SAT scores, falsifying letters of recommendation, and forging high school and college transcripts, claiming to have graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover and to have received perfect grades as a freshman at MIT. This was all fine by whoever read his application, when, in reality, he had spent an actual two years at Bowdoin, where he was described as “a likable wallflower,” a life he probably should have stuck with.
After finagling his way into Harvard, he plagiarized essays and a research proposal to earn a Hoopes Prize, Sargent Prize, and Rockefeller research grant. Most people would stop here, having achieved a lot already! But Adam Wheeler seems to be a truly pathological liar (and presumably a fairly skilled one): Months from graduation, he falsified a résumé to apply for Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships, finally prompting an investigation. Upon being investigated, he tried to transfer to Yale, using a fake résumé. Upon being jailed, he pleaded not guilty. That was a lie, too.
So, pleading guilty today to this truly epic web of fraudulence, Adam Wheeler felt, for the first time in four years, a strange, sobering sensation: Honesty. “I’m deeply sorry that my actions deprived others of the opportunity they rightfully deserved. I’ve been shamed and embarrassed by what I’ve done,” he said. Well, yes. Getting caught is the least fun part of lying.
Adam Wheeler Pleads Guilty to 20 Counts [Harvard Crimson]
Student pleads guilty to faking his way into Harvard [Boston Globe]
Earlier: What We Can Learn From the Lying Harvard Larcenist