Phony Harvard student jailed over resume
By DENISE LAVOIE AP Legal Affairs Writer November 9, 2011 6:00PM
FILE - In this Aug. 2, 2002 file photo. Cardinal Bernard Law, of the Boston archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church, pauses during testimony in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston. Law was answering questions about his knowledge and handling of the Father John Geoghan child sex abuse case and the alleged $30 million settlement from the Boston Archdiocese to be given to victims. The November 2011 charges that former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky sexually abused children, and that school officials lied to protect him, echo similarities to the sex abuse scandal of the Boston archdiocese. (AP Photo/George Martell, Pool, File)
WOBURN, Mass. — A Delaware man convicted of fraud for faking his way into Harvard was ordered held without bail Wednesday after admitting he violated his probation by citing the university on a job resume.
Adam Wheeler, 25, was sentenced last year to 2½ years in jail and 10 years on probation for identity fraud and other charges. The sentence was mostly suspended; Wheeler served just one month in jail while awaiting trial.
Prosecutors said he got into Harvard by falsely claiming that he had attended the exclusive Phillips Academy prep school in Andover and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Wheeler, originally from Milton, Del., was kicked out of Harvard in 2009 after he tried to get the school’s endorsement for Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships. Authorities said his application for the scholarships contained a string of lies, including a list of books he said he had co-authored, courses he said he had taught and lectures he said he had given.
After he left Harvard, Wheeler applied and was accepted to Stanford as a transfer student. Stanford rescinded his admission after media reports about his arrest.
Under the terms of his probation, Wheeler was barred from representing himself as a Harvard student or graduate. Wheeler’s lawyer, Steven Sussman, acknowledged that Wheeler had violated that provision by saying on his resume and in a cover letter for a job application that he had attended Harvard.
He said Wheeler lost a job in July and was feeling “financial pressure” to support himself and to pay Harvard the court-ordered restitution.
“He obviously made a mistake,” Sussman said of Wheeler’s use of Harvard on his resume.
Assistant District Attorney John Verner said he will ask that Wheeler be ordered to serve the remainder of his sentence — 2 years and 5 months — for violating his probation.
Verner argued that Wheeler be held without bail until a hearing next week, when a judge is expected to decide whether to give Wheeler jail time. Verner said prosecutors are concerned that Wheeler might flee, now that he knows he may go to jail.
“I think the gravity of the situation for Mr. Wheeler is greater today than it was,” Verner said.
Sussman asked that Wheeler be released on personal recognizance until the Nov. 17 hearing, saying that he has been living in Massachusetts and considers the state his home.
Judge Diane Kottmyer ordered him held without bail, citing the possible jail sentence hanging over him and concern about his “mental health status.”
During his sentencing hearing in December 2010, Kottmyer said Wheeler’s fraud, which continued even after he was caught, showed an “element of compulsion” and a “lack of moral compass.” She ordered him to continue to receive psychological counseling.
During his sentencing hearing, Wheeler apologized and said he was “ashamed and embarrassed.”
A spokesman for Harvard declined to comment, referring questions to prosecutors.