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In a Massachusetts courtroom, a 24-year-old man pled guilty to falsifying his application to Harvard, thereby bilking the world’s most prestigious university out of more than $45,000 in prizes and scholarships and cheating an honest applicant out of an Ivy League diploma. Using forged SAT scores, transcripts, and letters of recommendation, Wheeler outsmarted Harvard's admissions office. Once accepted to Harvard, Wheeler was not content to settle unnoticed into life as an Ivy League undergrad. He wanted much more. He garnered Harvard’s top honor for undergraduate writing using a plagiarized essay. He fabricated a research proposal which earned him an $8,000 grant to study abroad. He kept lying, cheating, and succeeding - until he shot too far.
During his senior year at Harvard, Wheeler applied for nomination to the illustrious Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships, a gamble that finally exposed his extensive tangle of lies. Harvard officials and later the police unraveled Wheeler's violations at Harvard and the falsifications on his application for admission. Alerted that he was under suspicion, Wheeler fled Harvard but did not stop scamming universities. He successfully filed more fraudulent applications at top-tier schools across the country - until some vigilant admissions officers, Massachusetts police, and even his own parents forced him off his computer and into court.
As reporters for The Harvard Crimson, Julie Zauzmer and Xi Yu covered the case from the moment the news of Wheeler’s indictment broke. Their reports included up-to-the-minute coverage of the case and the court transcripts, a psychological analysis of Wheeler, a look at the implication of the crime on college admissions, and a detailed annotation of Wheeler’s phoney resume. In the course of their reporting, they interviewed dozens of friends, roomates, teachers, and advisors who knew Wheeler at many phases of his suspect academic career. Their fascinating account reveals how one serial scammer took on the fast-paced and competitive world of the Ivy League - and almost won.