Who Is Abe Liu?

The end (or the beginning) of a remarkable controversy in the Yard.

Editor’s note: It is difficult to reach conclusions at this stage; the Indy is aware of this. The facts as they are presented come from interviews that the reporter conducted with those familiar with Mr. Liu and from carefully conducted research. Of course, updates will be posted as the story develops. 

Update 1:57 AM, 12/14/11: Mr. Liu contacted the reporter via phone earlier this evening. He criticized the sources and suggested that the information was false. He repeatedly denied the reporter’s requests for an interview. 

At 3:42 PM on April 13, 2005, the WayBack Machine made its way across the Internet, downloading and archiving millions of websites from around the world as they stood at that very instant; the slow-crawling bot, three seconds past the minute, stored a copy of abeliu.com.

Yi-Fan Liu, who went by Abe, made his website reflect who he was. Born September 19, 1984, in Taiwan, Liu grew up with his parents and twin brother in Raleigh; at the time, he was pursuing his Bachelor of Science in Sports Management at North Carolina State University. He was, in his own words, an accomplished athlete:

Competitive junior age-group swimming… Completed NSCC SEAL Team Training… Graduated from OAR SEAL Training Academy… Classed into Texas A&M SEAL Platoon.

Liu made his way through college; about a year and a half later, on December 4, 2006, someone recorded and uploaded a short video to YouTube of their friend Abe and his website.

Then, he vanishes from the Internet. His story seems to end. He aged, presumably got a job, made his way through life as a twenty-something. And then, he returns: sometime in the summer of 2011, he joined a Facebook group. The Harvard University Class of 2015.

Why did a 27-year-old elect to become a member of the Class of 2015? It’s not really clear. He wasn’t a Harvard freshman, at least, not according to HUPD and the Harvard Facebook. He created a (since-deleted) LinkedIn profile in which he listed no employment experience, but indicated that he would be graduating from the College in 2015. Liu had zero connections as of December 11, the last day that his profile seems to have been active. Yet Liu was, indeed, a Harvard affiliate—an Extension School student.

He had a Facebook account which has also since vanished, and posted excitedly and often on the wall of his “roommate,” whose Weld dorm would serve as a place for him to sleep most nights during his time on the Yard. He became close with a small cadre of Weld residents, who later became his staunchest defenders. Liu allegedly told a new acquaintance that he lived in Lowell; he took classes, made friends, and participated in the Harvardian world; he is rumoured to have  participated in the newspaper’s Grand Elections at the beginning of his first Reading Period.

On September 29, the Crimson published a photograph of a grinning Liu online, taken from a collection of photos for their Fifteen Minutes weekly magazine, showcasing the fashion sense of the Class of 2015. (The Crimson has since, for reasons unclear, closed down comments on the photograph, which focused on the mysterious origins and identity of Liu; there has been uncharacteristic silence at the newspaper on the controversy.)

His life on the Yard was like that of every other Harvard freshman; friends and acquaintances claim to have eaten with him in Annenberg, partied with him, worked with him, gotten to know him. Autumn came; people struggled through their first midterms; it snowed, for some reason, a few days before Hallowe’en—and then it got unseasonably warm once again.

Liu wove (and repeatedly re-wove) an elaborate fiction about himself to tell his new friends. At first, he was 22, a freshman who had taken a few years off; then, when his friends began to realize that he was not listed in the Facebook at some point in October, Liu revealed that he was an Extension School student, but one who had graduated from Vanderbilt and claimed to be taking myriad advanced classes at the Medical School while drawing perfectly-construed mathematical models on the whiteboard in Weld Common Room; later, he claimed to be a former Olympian who had played in Beijing for the United States (or China, depending on who he told). His friends could see that he was intelligent, approachably nice, and he seemed to just be a guy in kind of a weird situation.

On November 10, Occupy Harvard pitched its tents and began their continued occupation. Yet even in the wake of HUPD’s lockdown, Liu had access to the Yard, thanks to a stolen ID card, one stolen from a real freshman in October, allegedly while they studied in a group. As time went on, Liu’s story came into better focus: his Weldian acquaintances, suspicious, began to look for more information—discovering that he had gone to North Carolina State University, where he was accused of various crimes, including identity theft and credit card theft. Someone informed HUPD last week; according to witness accounts, this led to Liu being kicked out of the Yard, something which happened on multiple occasions. Yet Liu kept up his Harvardian life as finals slowly approached, until, suddenly, the Internet turned against him.

In the afternoon of Sunday the 11th, as Reading Period came to a close, Heather Lynn Pickerell ’15 posted a meme someone else created, and which she had found, to the same group which Liu joined at some point in the summer. ABE LIU, the Y U NO rage-face inquires, Y U NO WHO U SAY WHO U ARE?

Immediately, controversy erupted on the post, which has since been removed by the group’s administrators. In a statement, Pickerell indicated that her original intent was to make light of a strange, gossipy situation; over the weekend, rumours had begun to surround Liu, rumours which apparently polarized the freshman class. Her post turned from light to charged; Pickerell claimed to have been personally attacked numerous times by Liu’s defenders (backed up by a group administrator’s post about the situation, urging calm and telling people not to attack others). “The bottom line is that none of my intentions were malicious in any way and I did not (or at least did not intend to) insult abe or his friends in any way shape or form. Although the post has been taken down, the abe liu story as well as the meme is definitely a hot topic amongst the freshmen both online and offline,” said Pickerell.

Various other meme-ified images spread around the freshman class, generally among those who supported Pickerell and could not understand the strong reaction against her post; one derisively criticized one of Liu’s closest friends, Christian Ramirez ’15 (in whose common room Liu reportedly slept often). The situation devolved into a scandal quickly. The persistence of the controversy among Harvard freshmen has been repeatedly emphasized by many who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The HUPD report from the morning of the 8th is succinct and straightforward:

Officer dispatched to take a report of suspicious activity. Upon arrival, the officer was informed that an individual was using a falsified identification card to gain access into the yard. The individual was not in the area at the time of the incident. At approximately 1208 hours officers located the individual and conducted a field interview. The individual was checked for wants/warrants with negative results. The individual was issued a trespass warning for all Harvard dormitories and sent on their way. At approximately 1800 hours, an officer was dispatched to take a report of a theft. Upon arrival, the reporting individual informed their identification card was stolen sometime in October.

There’s a wonderful irony here. Liu made it a full semester at Harvard before his alleged lies caught up with him, all the way to 12:08 PM that day, as Lamonsters polished off their final papers and crammed the remnants of their textbooks into their brains. He lived the life of a Harvard student for months without attracting substantial attention, until the memes began and turned into a psychotic whirlwind in the hours before Primal Scream.

While hesitance is often the prescription for a journalist, I made the decision to write and publish this article at this early stage of the scandal at the behest of numerous people who contacted me personally, demanding that some part of the vast Harvard media reflect this immediately pressing and controversial issue. While many asked not to be named, fearing retribution by Liu’s friends and tension with the administration, Luis Usier ’15 agreed to go on the record about the controversy.

“I’ve known about this for a while now. I’ve been reading the Crimson, waiting to see them publish an article, and they haven’t said a single word about it. I spoke to my proctor, who seemed not to know about the situation; she spoke to the administration, who apparently weren’t aware that the freshmen were aware of the situation.” Usier, who lives in Weld and has interacted with Liu on many occasions, indicated that the issue was a primary concern for many of his friends, and that it was incomprehensible to him and them that it had gone unreported for so long. “It sounds like the administration is trying not to spread the story. Which, in my opinion, is very misguided; he hasn’t been kicked out of the Extension School, he could make more friends—this could happen again.”

Usier suggested that Liu was hardly a controversial figure until people realized he had lied so much. “I would trust him completely about everything he said, and then this happened. I’ve studied with him in the same room before. He’s such a nice guy, but this is wrong.” Of primary concern is the administration’s behaviour and the traditional media’s silence on the debacle, despite the fact that Liu has spent nearly a full semester masquerading as a freshman. “The University must realize that this has been a terrible security breach, given that we are in a time of heightened security measures, and the lack of information here is creating fear and insecurity among students—and imagine what parents would think! A 27-year-old living among their college freshmen?”

Reporter’s Commentary

This issue—one which both the Harvard administration and the traditional arbiters of public opinion over at the Crimson have been silent about—is more serious than it might appear. Those who maintain that Liu did nothing wrong, and those in high places who have avoided the issue, must face the fact that Liu’s occupation of the Yard transcended that of the Occupiers.

It is incomprehensible that something which challenges the security of the Yard, particularly in the wake of heightened security concerns surrounding Occupy Harvard, has gone unaddressed and unmentioned for days—let alone that it was allowed to happen in the first place. One of Liu’s closest allies, in a long Facebook message, decried the arguments of the Class of 2015 as having the right to know as a whimsical fantasy after vaguely suggesting that the security of the Yard and of Weld was never threatened. Yet, when the security of an entire community of students is clearly threatened—as one might expect when a man with a history of lying about himself lives illegally in the freshman dorms—someone must be held accountable. The story must be told.

Gary Gerbrandt ’14 (garygerbrandt@college) has no time for impostors, or for a Harvard which just won’t tell its students the truth. And thank you to those who corrected my misunderstanding of military time.

Editor’s Notes:

1:27 AM, 12/15/11: Time changed  from “1208 hours” to “12:08 AM”, and “Reporter’s Commentary” heading added above the final two paragraphs, which are editorial in nature. 

2:20 AM, 12/15/11: For the sake of clarity “Crimson” and “Fifteen Minutes” have been italicized throughout, and “about” was deleted in the third-to-last paragraph. 

  • Harvard ’15 student

    Thank you for the clarifications Gary.

  • Guest

    Way to go…it’s about time

  • Harvard14

    Maybe next time the managing editor of The Crimson won’t cave in to the administration’s pleas not to cover a controversial story.

    I hope your web servers are prepared for what’s sure to be an onslaught of traffic from an information hungry student body.

    Harvard Independent #FTW.

  • Bout to blow up!

    This is gonna be big!

  • abe

    Occupy Harvard… that’s how it’s done.

  • HarvardAdmin

    Fuck the Crimson for not covering this!

  • Harvard2012

    Thank god we actually have an investigative journalist at this school! #GaryIsTheBest

  • HLS2015

    Wait for the NYT and Boston Globe to cover this and credit THE HARVARD INDEPENDENT instead of the CRIMSON for breaking this.

  • Indy is poor journalism

    This is poor journalism. There is no one, either an “Abraham Liu” or “Yi-Fan Liu,” enrolled at the extension school. Also, an entire article based on speculation with no quotes. WIN!

    • Harvard ’13

      Surely the comment of some high and mighty crimson writer who thinks that the only source of journalism on this campus is the Crimson ~”Keeping the Admin Happy since it started”

    • Guest

      except there are quotes…

    • One Percent

      There is no public Extension School directory, so there is no way to verify this.

  • a.g.

    Bam, free-market journalism in action. -1 for the Crimson.

  • 2014

    GO INDEPENDENT! I want an article about why the Crimson won’t cover our school’s news!

  • guest

    I am so glad you have stepped up and put information out there-Its time for answers.

  • ’15

    I take no stance on this issue other than to say: You better hope you have every single one of your facts straight about this, or you’ve just committed libel.

    • One Percent

      False. No libel was committed. What was committed was investigative journalism.

      • ’15

        The two are not mutually exclusive.

        • Guest`

          Yes they are–libel is a published false statement; investigative journalism reports on true facts.

          • ’15

            Just because it is published as “investigative journalism” does not mean that everything it presents is factual.

            • Guest

              News media can only be persecuted for libel if incorrect information, known to be false by its publishers, was presented as fact.


              • ’12

                The publishers do not need to know that the information is false in order for them to be responsible for libel

                • One Percent

                  Educate yourself in the law before you brandish about the term libel.

                  • http://twitter.com/mrbillding Rajiv Raghavan

                    NERD BATTLE!!!!!! GOOOOO

                  • know the facts

                    FACT: this space is getting tiny

  • Guest

    No facts. Essentially malicious journalism. Totally disgusted that this Gary has become a hero for cobbling together gossip and hearsay and calling it an ‘investigative piece’.

  • C’est moi

    This doesn’t even make sense. Why would someone suddenly decide to report an ID stolen in October? How do you know that the reported person was Liu and the reported ID was stolen by him? There was no mention of a confiscation of an ID or anything in the report.
    This article just seems overzealous in condemning people without much factual support all in the hopes of “beating Crimson to it’.

    • Guest

      It’s because the Crimson was going to write a story on it and then decided not to publish

  • Harvard 13′

    Indy is Indy people.
    It doesn’t have to be perfect journalism. I feel that the reason why this article is even being circulated so fast in the first place is because the Crimson didn’t cover the story first (like they are supposed to).

  • Guest

    I’m not quite sure how you can argue that this has no facts. This has perhaps the most important and relevant details of the situation: Abe Liu is a 27-year-old former NCSU student (as verified by thorough online investigation), Abe Liu has been lying about his identity to the Harvard College student body (as verified by anonymous interviews from Harvard College students), and the administration knew about the situation yet chose not the respond (as verified by proctor discussions with members of the administration).

    I’m guessing that you (and others criticizing this article along similar lines) are affiliated with the Crimson and don’t want to admit that the Crimson completely, and irresponsibly, failed to pick up a very important lede that the student body wanted–and needed–to know.

  • harvard college ’15

    As much as I agree that this story needs to be covered, this article hardly is a legitimate news piece…cobbled together from rumors, hearsay, with no administration comment and plus reporter editorial right in the middle? How is the student body supposed to trust that this is the conclusive truth?

    • K14

      This is just the beginning, not a finalized research and factual report. If any of you would read the beginning of this article and read that it is difficult to reach factual conclusions you’d be able to stop criticizing this article for a lack of ‘truth.’ This story needed to be covered and I trust that it was done to the best of the writer’s ability and will continue to be edited as more ‘conclusive truth’ is found.

  • aasdf


  • Why

    I don’t understand quite why “the story must be told”

  • Mathhoops9
  • Martin

    Thanks for the update, Gary. He friended me on Facebook early in the semester

  • LOLs


  • Jhp

    Thank god someone finally reported this. Just too weird. This just shows we all have to be on the lookout – constantly. Between “Liu” and Adam Wheeler, this school is clearly the lightening rod for a bunch of deranged weirdos.

  • Guest

    I have no affiliation with the Independent or The Crimson but I must say that no matter the quality of journalism, it is still a good and interesting story!

  • Guest

    i saw Abe Liu in the science center computer lab making a fake Harvard ID last month.

    • guest

      I’m sure you did.

  • fail

    Also, “1208 hours” is a bit past noon, not “all the way to 12:08 AM, as Lamonsters polished off their final papers and crammed the remnants of their textbooks into their brains.” 0008 hours would be a bit after midnight.

  • Crimson13

    I’m disappointed that the Crimson decided that a story wasn’t warranted, and so I’m glad that thanks to the Independent the Harvard community will know about this incident. But, this is a piece of really terrible journalism. There may be bits of truth in this story, but the editorial tone undermines the entire article; it sounds like a soap opera plot rather than a hard-hitting news piece.

  • ’15

    The update was updated to the wrong time. The police report says 1208 hours. The report should be changed to say “12:08 p.m.”

  • ’12

    crimson story will be out in the morning

    • ’13

      Ahh the crimson finally reacting to a story only after the Indy made it BIG!

      • smh…… ’15

        The Crismon has had this story for a few weeks now but decided against running it until it had more facts… it did not want to do a tabloid like piece, as this unfortunately is. Moreover, there is this little thing called libel…..

  • MemeMaster
  • Really?

    Is anyone forgoing the obvious here—that this person was able to gain access to Harvard buildings [requiring “swipe access”] for so long because the student with the stolen ID failed to report it (per Harvard policy) for three months? Also, why weren’t the non-HUPD security folks making sure that Harvard ID photos matched student faces? This is a security breach all around. I know of students and staff who have restraining orders against ex-spouses, and this article speaks to how easy it would be for crazed individuals to gain access to the campus. PLEASE, FROSHIES, REPORT YOUR STOLEN CARDS SO THEY CAN BE DEACTIVATED! AND FAKE SECURITY GUARDS–PLEASE DO YOUR JOB! Kthxbi.

    • ’15

      Get your facts straight. He never had swipe access to any buildings. Other people let him into buildings. He never stole anyone’s ID card, as this article implies. If that had been what HUPD discovered when they “conducted a field interview” and searched him, there’s no way in hell they would have issued a mere trespass warning.

      • D-U-H

        Can you tell me how he was given yard access? Why aren’t the security guards checking IDs? Matching faces on the cards to the faces standing in front of them? Serious security problems all around. Also, the issue of the student not reporting the stolen card is still of note. By not acting to have the card deactivated, he puts others at risk.

      • Get YOUR facts straight ’15

        I suggest that you take your own advice ’15: YOU get your facts right. In the article, it states: “thanks to a stolen ID card, one stolen from a real freshman in October, allegedly while they studied in a group.” This article never implies that he didn’t steal an ID card and instead directly states that he did. Also, HUPD would not have done anything more than issue a no trespass warning, because possessing a lost/stolen HUID is not an actual crime because it isn’t state/federally issued.

        Also, this argument speaks to the quality of this “journalistic” piece: both of you were able to misinterpret this poorly cited, assumption-filled “news” article that more closely resembles a tabloid article.

        In response to YOU “Really?,” the ID was, of course, deactivated when the student went to get a new ID so you can stop blaming the victim. Abe created a fake HUID using this card as a template in order to gain access to the Yard and gained the trust of all students in Weld– he never had any problem getting in. (As a resident of Weld, I can tell you this with certainty).

    • Concerned

      Thank you having the courage to get to heart of this issue. In case you missed the update, “Crimson ( Finally) Printed The Article…”, Gary wrote the original article at the behest of Crimson commentators who were vetoed in their desire to run the story, and subsequently contacted the Independent because they knew that this story deserved reporting.

      One can call Gary anything one wants, but it doesn’t change the facts that for some inexplicable reason, Harvard Police saw fit to simply release a 27 year old man who posed as Freshman, trolled Weld and the campus for months, and by his OWN admission, FORGED a security document to obtain access to areas in which he had no business.

      Furthermore, one MUST question the judgement of the Managing Editor of The Crimson who would, at the request of the subject of a story his staff was investigating, simply kill the story. The fact that Mr. Liu asked to have the story censored, as in cancelled, should have raised a HUGE red flag in the editor’s mind, causing him to rethink capitulating to such a self-serving request.

      Then Mr. Liu persuaded the Harvard Police and the administration to suppress the information about his order to leave the premises, despite the fact that scores of students wanted and needed to know how security breaches on their campus are being perpetrated and then addressed.

      Before anyone questions Gary’s integrity and motivation, why not first ask who has the most to gain by keeping silent on this story? First, there’s Mr. Liu, a nearly 30-something loser who is so clearly insecure that he felt compelled to fraudulently ingratiate himself into the elite society of the Harvard melieu, posing as a Freshman.

      Then there are the campus police who allowed him to walk away from what can only be defined as a bizarre breach of security, without legal consequence. Could they be embarrassed that such an outrageous hoax was committed under their watch, despite the fact that the Yard has been on lock down for weeks?

      Mr. Liu betrayed the so-called friends he made at Harvard, by duping them into trusting him. The problem is that they really can’t call him a friend since his relationships with them were predicated on lies, and there is no way they could truly have known or trusted him under such false premises.

      Does it matter that Mr. Liu may not have had any malicious intent?No, considering that he could have been far more malevolent and could have done real harm to the unsuspecting students he lurked amongst for months. What if he really did intend to do harm? He had ample, unfettered opportunity to do so, and this could have been a horrifically different story. In the wake of yet ANOTHER shooting at Virginia Tech, campus security needs to be treated with a zero tolerance policy to something like this.

      And that is the REAL story here. The disturbed Mr Liu is simply a pathetic side note to a story of a pattern of security problems, lack of transparency, and lack of accountability on campuses everywhere. All Harvard students should demand more from the people hired to protect them, and the people trusted to get important information to them.

      • Guest


        • Concerned

          Wow. That was really articulate. Did you have anything intelligent to contribute, or are you incapable of engaging in productive discourse? You r mother must be proud.

    • Really

      When you outsource security to the lowest bidder, a multinational corporation based in a foreign country, and pay guards less than someone who cleans a toilet at the same school – you get what you pay for. And for the record his photo matched his id. The entire thing was forged on one solid piece of plastic. Durrrrrr. Carry on.

  • ’15
  • Guest

    In the interest of clarity, the “Editor’s Notes” should probably be dated 12/14/11 since we’re not at 12/15/11, unless you are in Asia somewhere.

  • Guest

    You misused “let alone”. The structure goes the other way.

  • Anonymous

    Speaking of controversies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5OdQGbVNa4

  • http://www.facebook.com/milowent Milo A. Wendt

    Hilarious story. Abe Liu pwns Harvard. He didn’t hurt anybody, it gives you something to tell your parents next time you ask for a trust fund check. (But seriously, its a good thing he wasn’t a whacko. I suspect things like this happen more often than you think.)

  • Stanford ’13

    I don’t go to Harvard, and I NEVER post on the comments, but I felt the need to comment on this piece– I can’t believe this piece passed for “journalism.” This is one of the most childish, antagonistic, and poorly written “articles” I’ve ever read in recent memory.

    “Gary Gerbrandt ’14 has no time for impostors, or for a Harvard which just won’t tell its students the truth.” Are you kidding me? Is this a joke? Be more self-congratulatory.

    “This story must be told.” Hah, excuse me? Did you just write that? If you’re wondering why people hate Harvard students, look no further!

    This is truly terrible journalism that makes even English gossip mags look well researched. I’ve never once read the Independent before, but from having read this article and the “Crimson (finally) Publishes Article on Abe Liu,” I can promise that I won’t again.

  • claudette mccubbin

    Dude that wrote this article needs way more homework and perhaps a bit of a social life. He wasted too much time on a nothing.

  • Settledown2000

    he didn’t disappear from the internet on December 4, 2006


  • Settledown2000
  • http://twitter.com/murmur55 murmur55

    Liu fit right into Harvard because he is a user, a liar and a fraud. At least he didn’t stalk, batter, intimidate, rape or murder anyone.

    • Guest

      That’s not true. He is violent.

      • Guy

        LOL He’s a Dirty Dirty Boy…

  • http://twitter.com/mrbillding Rajiv Raghavan

    Nobody willing to show their true identity? I guess ya’l all a buncha abes donnit?

  • Anonymous

    Judging from how sketchy this situation is, I thought the guy would be a shy person who immigrated relatively later in his life. But from his website, it seemed that he was actually raised mostly in the US and was a big jock. I wonder what would drive someone to do something like this.

    • Guest

      The only thing he did wrong was trespassing into weld and told people he was 22.

    • C’est moi

      Wow, way to stereotype.

  • http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/lamont/ Ipso Facto

    This isn’t the first time:





    Google “Azia Kim” to read about a similar case involving someone living in a Stanford dormitory for nearly a year before being caught.

  • Guest

    Abe Liu is a sociopath. Do not trust him. I will not say who I am but I know him better than all of you. He will use, steal,lie, and cheat to get what he wants. And when he doesn’t like something, even will resort to physical force to prevent you from doing something. He should not be at Harvard in any form.

  • Frie337n

    Let’s see how long he will keep it up with this girl.. I think he’s stealing soup right now from other homeless people.

  • Some guy

    I heard he made out with a dude once so he could hang out in the dorms

  • Anonymous

    I am not a Harvard student. I just happened to find this piece by chance. Abe Liu and I used to be best friends. Our relationship ended because he’s a lying scumbag. Quite honestly, none of this surprises me. Malicious journalism? Maybe. But that’s what he does. He settles some where, makes a place and a name for himself, and then ends up disappearing. No one here has heard from him in months. He’s a con artist.

    • A person

      question for you thru email?

  • guest

    Soooo is it just me or has the educational system totally went down the drain? “Gary Gerbrandt ’14 (garygerbrandt@college) has no time for impostors, or for a Harvard which just won’t tell its students the truth. And thank you to those who corrected my misunderstanding of military time.” -One: If you’re a Harvard student, I would really HOPE you know milatary time. With the prestige of that school and how HARD it is to get in, you w0uld think you would be top notch in all subjects. TWO: Why is Harvard allowing articles that would be featured in Star or Life and Style to be on the Harvard Independent? Three: Where’s your facts? Where’s your sources? If you don’t document them then you just commited libel. I hope Abe Liu has the guts to sue for this “tabloid style” mess. If he has the confidence to be an imposter, then I would hope he would have the power to defend his image.