Any employers, including prestigious universities, doubting the need for education verifications as a part of effective background screening programs may reconsider after hearing the story of a former Harvard student who allegedly faked academic credentials and references — even transcripts with perfect SAT grades — to win prizes, scholarships, and receive grants and financial aid.
According to a report in The Harvard Crimson and a news release from the Middlesex County (MA) District Attorney, the 23-year-old former Harvard student from Delaware has been indicted on 20 counts of larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree. The accused was allegedly “untruthful” in his applications to Harvard University and for scholarships, and in falsifying transcripts that detailed an impressive academic career at some of the top educational institutions in Massachusetts.
The accused student was exposed after submitting applications and references for the Rhodes and Fulbright scholarships while at Harvard University in 2009, according to the report from the Crimson. A Harvard professor noticed similarities between the student’s work and that of another professor and determined that the application packet was mostly plagiarized.
According to the District Attorney’s news release, after Harvard University launched an internal investigation looking into defendant’s academic file, among the discrepancies and inaccuracies allegedly found during the education verification were that the defendant:
- Had never attended MIT or Phillips Academy in Andover, as his file claimed.
- Had SAT scores that were not perfect, as they were conveyed in a College Board document in his file.
- Had recommendations — allegedly signed by professors at Bowdoin College, which the defendant attended before transferring to Harvard — that were falsely attributed to individuals who said that they did not know the accused and had not written the letters.
- Allegedly submitted fraudulent applications for the Harvard endorsement for both the United States Rhodes Scholarship and the Fulbright Scholarship.
- Allegedly submitted an application packet that included fabricated recommendations from Harvard professors and a college transcript detailing perfect grades over three years.
- Had a resume allegedly listing numerous books he had co-authored, lectures he had given, and courses he had taught, according to authorities.
- Allegedly stole 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 work.
According to the news release, this is not the first time the accused had been under scrutiny for offenses in an academic setting, as he was suspended from Bowdoin due to academic dishonesty. In addition, he did not receive a Harvard degree, according to a spokesperson for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.