Prosecutors say Adam Wheeler committed larceny and identity fraud, stealing $45,000 in Harvard scholarship money. Peers recall a quiet overachiever with a knack for grandiose self-description and a plan to become a lawyer—or so he told them.

The talented Mr. Wheeler "kept to himself" during his two years at Harvard; few remember him and those who do describe him as "quiet." But from the safety of his computer screen, he could be downright grandiose. As an incoming transfer student, Adam took his new, fabricated identity as a painfully literary MIT student for a spin in a mass email to fellow transferees:

My own, brief, assessment of my character is that I am sententious, crypto-tendentious, slightly pedantic with a streak of contrarianism, a fascination with any pedagogical approach to Shakespeare, and a decent sense of humor.

[At MIT], I was, to put it poorly, suckled upon the teat of disdain. That being said (fortified by a reflexive snort), I was inspired therby [sic] to apply to Harvard, where the humanities, in short, are not, simpliciter, a source of opprobrium.

He added that he had no interest in sports, all of which are "a neighborhood faux-pas of epic proportions." He certainly didn't admit to playing on Bowdoin's ultimate frisbee team.

As a resident of Harvard's Kirkland House, the talented Mr. Wheeler was a cafeteria regular, cutting a lonely, romantic figure in a vintage letter jacket. Writes one Kirklander,

My friends and I used to call him "50's Diner Kid", as he wore an old-school varsity jacket literally every day. He had this strange naivety and innocence about him that reminded us of a creepy version of Richie Cunningham.... He always used to bring his food back to his room or would eat with one girl who we presumed was his girlfriend.

Gravitating to ever-more obscure fields of Comparative Literature, the future accused criminal toyed with an ironic post-graduate plan: Adam Wheeler was pre-law, and actively recruited other future lawyers.

————— Forwarded message —————
From: Adam Wheeler <[redacted]>
Date: Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 11:35 PM
Subject: [Kirkland-list] Law Society Info Session—Tuesday

Interested in law?

Join the…

Harvard College Law Society

The Harvard College Law Society is a student-run organization at
Harvard College that is dedicated to providing Harvard College
undergraduates with an opportunity to learn about the field of law and
the career options it provides.

Come to our first information session of the year to find out more:

Where: Emerson Hall: Room 305
When: Tuesday, September 23, 2008
7:00 p.m.

We look forward to seeing you there!

The Crimson reports that Adam withdrew from Harvard in the fall of 2009 due to "academic dishonesty" charges—presumably the essays they say he plagiarized. Living at home in Delaware, he apparently applied to Yale and received a phone call from the admissions office. His parents intercepted it and intervened, but not before Yale called his public Delaware high school, Caesar Rodney High School, where school officials told Yale that even his credentials at the school he usually denied (preferring to claim he prepped at Andover) were lies. He claimed to be Caesar Rodney's 2007 valedictorian, but was actually top 10 percent in the class of 2005. In truth, Adam Wheeler was smart and decently talented—but he wanted to be the best, by book or by crook.

Previously: How a Lie on a Harvard Application Turned Into Larceny, Fraud Charges
The Talented Mr. Wheeler: Meet the Kid Who Faked His Way Into Harvard

[Crimson, NYT, image via AP]