WOBURN -- The parents of a former Harvard University student accused of forging documents and conning his way into Harvard intervened when he attempted to apply to Yale University, prosecutors said today.
Adam B. Wheeler’s parents stepped in after receiving a telephone call from Yale about his application. The parents, Richard and Lee Wheeler, then forced their son to tell the caller that the application was false and that he had been kicked out of Harvard.
“That is the only reason Mr. Wheeler stopped his scheme,” Assistant Middlesex District Attorney John Verner said today in court.
Wheeler, who received tens of thousands of dollars in grants and financial aid until his alleged scheme unraveled, was ordered held on $5,000 cash bail at his arraignment today in Middlesex Superior Court.
Wheeler's parents sat quietly in the courtroom but did not comment on the case.
His lawyer, Steven Sussman, said he had only begun to review the case, but emphasized that the charges against his client are “just allegations.”
“He’s presumed innocent" and he’s pleaded not guilty, Sussman said. “He’s never been in trouble before.”
Clerk Magistrate Michael Sullivan said that if Wheeler were to post bail he would not be allowed to leave the state and return to Delaware without first agreeing to waive his right to fight rendition back to Massachusetts. Wheeler would also be required to surrender his passport, and stay away from Harvard as well as other institutions at which he applied for internships and acceptance, including Yale University and Brown University.
The Globe reports today that Wheeler allegedly forged his way into Harvard University by submitting false transcripts saying he had attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the elite Phillips Academy in Andover. He also said he scored a perfect score of 1600 on his SAT. After transferring to Harvard, he earned some $45,000 in scholarship, grants, and financial aid.
In reality, according to Verner, he scored about 1100 on his SAT, and attended high school in Delaware. He also attended Bowdoin College but was suspended for plagiarizing an essay. It was during his suspension, after the spring 2007 semester, that he applied to transfer to Harvard.
His “web of lies,” according to Verner, unraveled when he applied for prestigious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships last fall using falsified credentials, including a fake transcript and work he plagiarized from a Harvard professor.
A Harvard professor reviewing the application for the scholarships grew suspicious of essays that Wheeler apparently plagiarized. Wheeler also allegedly forged the names of professors on letters of recommendations.
When confronted with the plagiarism allegation, Wheeler allegedly said, “Ah, I must have made a mistake. I didn’t really plagiarize it,” Verner said.
Investigators later allegedly found that Wheeler’s initial Harvard application was bogus. They discovered that he had forged a transcript from MIT with letter grades, though MIT uses a numerical system for scoring, and that he had claimed to take classes at Phillips that the academy did not offer.
Wheeler's next hearing in the case is set for June 9.
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