Wow, Harvard has managed a whole lot of really bad press in the last year. But this is like the plot from a bad movie. According to an article by Tracy Jan and Milton Valencia in the Boston Globe:

A disheveled [Adam] Wheeler, who has been in custody since he was arrested at his parents’ Delaware home on May 10, stood behind a glass panel as prosecutors accused him of defrauding Harvard of tens of thousands of dollars in grants, prize money, and other financial aid by allegedly forging, plagiarizing, and conning his way into the university.

Authorities say he did such a thorough job of convincing Harvard officials of his perfect record at Phillips Academy in Andover and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, neither of which he attended, that admissions staff apparently did not bother to check his record.

Harvard apparently admitted Wheeler, now 23, the son of a shop teacher from rural Delaware, based on an almost entirely forged transcript. He actually didn’t attend either Andover or MIT; Bowdoin College suspended Wheeler in 2007.

Yesterday Wheeler, 23, pled not guilty to 20 charges, including larceny and identity fraud, in Middlesex Superior Court.

The Wheeler story highlights something interesting about the college admissions process: no one really verifies what someone says in the application. An admissions packet is only as good as the university thinks it is. There’s usually no outside verification for this sort of thing. The sheer volume of university applications makes this pretty much impossible.

Interesting, Wheeler recently applied for an internship at The New Republic. The magazine didn’t hire him but TNR thoughtfully posted what it called Wheeler’s “rather remarkable” resume.

Seriously, Wheeler said he earned like 12 prizes and grants in 2009 alone. He also said he spoke both Classical Armenian and Old Persian. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer