'Star scholar' tricked Harvard for two years
Published 19/05/2010 | 05:00
On paper Adam Wheeler had impeccable academic credentials.
The 23-year-old won a place at Harvard University with a perfect score on his college entrance exam, glowing references from a distinguished private school and straight As from a year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
While studying English at the elite university, he was showered with scholarships of more than $45,000(€36,684).
But Mr Wheeler's high flying academic career unravelled when he applied for the sought-after Rhodes Scholarship, for study at the University of Oxford, and Fulbright award, which enables Americans to undertake academic and professional development in Britain and vice versa.
His application claimed that he had not only received perfect grades while at Harvard but had also co-authored numerous books, given lectures and even taught courses. A professor, reviewing a piece of work included with the application, noticed a suspicious similarity with the writing of another Harvard professor. It was clear, he thought, that Mr Wheeler had plagiarised almost the entire piece.
After fooling some of the brightest minds in America for more than two years Mr Wheeler has been arrested as a fraud, accused of making up virtually his entire academic record.
Yesterday the Ivy League impostor pleaded not guilty to 20 offences, ranging from identity fraud and pretending to hold a degree, to larceny for allegedly stealing the scholarship money that he received -- including two writing prizes worth $14,000(€11,415) that he won at Harvard with a piece allegedly plagiarised from a Cornell University postgraduate work. He was released on bail until June 9.
"This defendant seriously undermined the integrity of the competitive admissions process, compromised the reputation of some of the finest educators and educational institutions in the country and cheated those who competed honestly for what he fraudulently received," Gerry Leone, the local district attorney, told the court in Woburn, Massachusetts.
"Not only was this defendant untruthful on his application to the university and his numerous scholarship applications, he is also alleged to have stolen over $45,000 in grants, scholarship and financial aid money awarded to him on applications and submissions of documents that were based on lies and reproductions of other people's hard work."
Mr Wheeler won a place at Harvard in 2007 after what he said was a high-achieving year at MIT. In his application he claimed that he had graduated from the elite Phillips Academy.
In fact Mr Wheeler graduated from the state-run Caesar Rodney High School, in Delaware, before attending Bowdoin College, in Maine, from 2005 until he was suspended for academic dishonesty in 2007.
Instead of achieving a perfect 1,600 on his college entrance exam, as he claimed, he took the SAT test twice, with mediocre scores of 1,160 and 1,220. (© The Times, London)