The Brilliant Professor Ward
As if the rigors of a 10-hour direct flight from Brazil aren’t enough to make a man irritable, it’s not even eight in the morning, and a customs agent is pulling Scott Ward aside for a security check. All those stamps on his passport from Thailand — where child sex-trafficking is so pervasive it’s considered an industry — made the inspector at Dulles International suspicious. If he’d asked Ward about those trips, the 63-year-old Wharton professor, cherubic when his smile pushes his cheeks up in a soft puff, would have explained that he travels overseas for business, representing the University of Pennsylvania by teaching marketing. He’s an expert in the study of human behavior and how it is influenced, how it’s manipulated. A logical explanation, a grin — maybe that’s where the security check would have ended.
Instead, a second customs officer finds photos in Ward’s luggage of Ward posing on the beach with kids. He says they’re his girlfriend’s children. Now he’s talking about Wharton, about his research in foreign countries, but the customs agent is more interested in a locked laptop. Ward hesitates when asked to open it, knowing what’s on his hard drive. There’s a video of two children, maybe as young as eight, doing things no child should do. He knows if the agents find that, they’ll keep searching. They’ll see the DVDs with more kids, all of them male, maybe 14 years old, performing oral sex and masturbating. They’ll see Ward in those videos, engaging in fellatio with those boys.
By 11 a.m., instead of heading to his home on the shores of Cape Cod after a nearly three-week trip to South America — including a stop in Fortaleza, Brazil, whose child sex tourism epidemic was detailed in the Los Angeles Times — Ward is under arrest. Four days later, a search of his office at Wharton’s Huntsman Hall uncovers more than 80 images of Ward and a boy in intimate situations. That boy, apparently no older than 15, is also the star of a series of pornographic DVDs found in Ward’s mail — DVDs that Ward sent to himself. The boy’s sex partner in those videos is Scott Ward.
The customs agents, whose account of Ward’s arrest was chronicled in court documents, may have been surprised by this man’s double life — shocked, perhaps, that an esteemed Ivy League professor, a wealthy consultant to Fortune 500 companies and the founder of a nonprofit youth outreach program, seemed to have a penchant for romping with teenage boys. (Through his attorney, Ward declined to comment for this article.) But the truth is that Scott Ward’s behavior was hardly a well-kept secret. In 1993, Ward had been the subject of a sting at his Ardmore mansion, where several teenage boys lived with him, and he was accused of molesting a 13-year-old there as often as 100 times. But after two highly publicized trials, he was sentenced to just five years of probation, during which time he continued to teach at Wharton, and to travel — on Penn’s dime — to Thailand and other hot spots where the touch of a young boy could be had for a price.
It’s understandable that a man with Ward’s pedigree might be able to fool the drug-addled parents of the nowhere kids he lured to his suburban Neverland ranch. But there were also some very bright people he apparently outwitted — detectives, district attorneys, even Penn officials. He had outsmarted all of them, at least until a routine customs search on August 27, 2006. The chilling truth is that the same brilliance that made Ward a wealthy, revered marketing professor may also have made him the perfect pedophile.
NO ONE WOULD DENY THAT Scott Ward was a bright man. He taught at Harvard Business School prior to arriving at Wharton in 1980, and his savvy translated into quotes in the New York Times and a job anchoring the Wharton/Business Times Management Report on a fledgling ESPN. Ward was a rare animal — a respected academic who was published (nearly half his papers focused on children) and made a small fortune as a consultant for IBM, General Motors, Exxon, and a slew of other international outfits, sometimes hauling in five-figure paychecks for as little as two days’ work. He drove flashy cars and bought homes in Cape Cod’s Wellfleet and on Maui. He also used his money to support underage boys, mostly between the ages of 13 and 16, and all with one common thread — they were from broken homes, and had little education or hope for a future outside prison walls. Actually, “broken” implies fixable. These boys grew up in rubble. They were boys like Bruce Martin.
Bruce was raised on the 2000 block of Tioga Street in Kensington, but he didn’t enjoy anything resembling a childhood. His old man was locked up. His step-pop and mom were both alcoholics. Bruce watched her take a few good beatings and decided he’d take his chances on the streets. By age 12, he had a $75-a-week crack habit to support. The cops say a relative showed him how to make money, as much as $100 in a night. At Bruce’s spot on the corner of Kensington and Huntingdon, he had a few rules — no blacks, no Puerto Ricans, no finishing in his mouth, no backdoor. Some of his tricks would drive him to motels in Jersey, or take him to their houses when their wives weren’t home. Not many of them cruised the Ave in a BMW, the way Scott Ward did one fall night in 1990. Bruce remembers Ward wearing a flannel shirt, sweet smoke drifting from the pipe between his lips, a healthy crop of curly hair on his head. Handsome guy. He had an odd habit of sucking on his right wrist, something about a scar from a kitchen accident when he was working his way through college. After he agreed to Bruce’s ground rules, they sped off to the Holiday Inn on City Avenue. Bruce’s clientele weren’t usually a chatty bunch, but Ward asked questions: Where do you live? Parents together? You going to school? He seemed genuinely concerned.
The next morning, after a night of oral sex, Ward brought Bruce breakfast from McDonald’s, drove him home, and gave him his number. Usually, it was just “See ya later.” But a few days afterwards, when Bruce rode shotgun in Ward’s gray Maserati to his nine-bedroom mansion in Ardmore — shielded from curious neighbors by a 10-foot brick wall — he learned just how different this john was. Ward showed Bruce his in-ground pool, the tennis courts and basketball hoop. Inside, a Jacuzzi, big-screen TV, video games. The hustler in Bruce Martin saw dollar signs. The kid somewhere inside him saw a fantasyland.
There, Bruce met some of the other teens who made Ward’s idyllic suburban estate their home or their hangout. Some would stop by to rake leaves, mow the lawn or paint when they needed money. Two of them lived there year-round. Others were new to the scene, like the Hoffman brothers — Frannie, Mark and Ian, three of Kensington’s toughest delinquents. By age 15, Frannie, the oldest, had spent more time selling crack and heroin in North Philly or hanging at a Market Street arcade than in classes. Mark, at 12, had failed the fourth grade three times. Ian, 9, was just beginning to follow the lead of his troublemaking brothers. Until they met Ward. He established a nonprofit called the Rebound Foundation for disadvantaged youth, and used it to make contacts at a series of private schools that Mark and Ian would attend, with his help.
Then there was Al Georigi — a teenage three-card-monte scammer in Center City when Ward found him in 1982 and, Georigi would later say, paid him for oral sex. Over the years, Ward would pass Georigi a few hundred dollars each time Georigi introduced him to another boy who, as Ward would say, “needed help.”
Georigi’s criminal habits eventually sent him from Ward’s Ardmore compound to Graterford state prison, but he resurfaced in September 1993, calling his old benefactor. He’d found a fresh one: 15, mom’s a drunk, out on the streets. Name’s Frankie, but they call him Spanky. Jesus, how perfect is that? Ward, fresh off a trip to Thailand, suggested his usual meeting place — the McDonald’s at 30th Street Station, that Friday. Every kid, from here to São Paulo to Bangkok, knows those arches and that redheaded clown. It’s familiar. Safe.
“I told him, you know, if you like him and all, you might want to have sex or whatever, and ah, he wants to know about money and all,” Georigi said to Ward on the phone.
“Does he hustle or what?” Ward asked.
“Yeah, he hustles in town.”
“How’s he look?” said Ward.
“He looks good. He’s a good-looking kid.”
Friday arrived, and Ward took Spanky, in his jean jacket, untucked workshirt and Eagles cap, back to his house. Ward didn’t think he looked much like a 15-year-old — he had a five-o’clock shadow. He also noticed the kid asked a lot of questions, but paid it no mind. Ward told Spanky he wasn’t like the other guys out there; he wasn’t in a rush. If Spanky wanted to stay at the house, though, he’d have to go to school or learn a trade. Ward asked if he was bisexual, and said he liked sex. When Spanky admitted he got roughed up once while hustling, Ward comforted him. That would never happen here, he promised, and invited Spanky to spend the night.
Shortly after Ward went upstairs to find a pill for a cold Spanky had, there was a knock at his front door. Spanky was actually a state trooper, and a utility repair van parked up the street was filled with Montgomery County detectives and deputy district attorney Bruce Castor, who had listened in as the conversation between Ward and their wired undercover cop was recorded. Castor decided he’d finally heard enough — Ward clearly wanted sex — and his team moved in and arrested Ward. As the police searched his home, an investigator compiled a disturbing inventory in the second-floor office where Ward spent much of his time:
Item #6: Letterhead marked NAMBLA — North American Man-Boy Love Association.
Item #8: A book titled It’s Okay To Say Yes — Close Encounters in the Third World, the Adventures and Misadventures of a Well-Traveled Boy Lover.
Item #5: A 1993 Time article about child prostitutes in Russia headlined “Defiling the Children,” and an unsigned letter tucked inside that read:
… I wanted to send you the enclosed article from Time magazine. It is VERY bad news because it raises the consciousness of people about what we like — sort of puts it on the agenda. I can’t believe the Russian idiot let himself be the subject of this article.
Bruce Castor left Ardmore after midnight, certain that Scott Ward’s scheming would unravel in court. With testimony from at least two victims, the evidence bonanza they’d found, and the audiotape courtesy of “Spanky,” there was no doubt about it. Ward was done.
AS CLOSE AS THEY WERE TO him, boys like Bruce Martin and the Hoffman brothers knew little about Scott Ward’s life before he entered theirs, and perhaps by design, they didn’t understand how closely his past paralleled their own lives. When Ward was a teenager in Pittsburgh, his mother was diagnosed with lupus. His father instructed him and his older sister, Sue, to tell their mother arthritis was to blame for the aches that wracked her body. But while the lies spared his mom the pain of knowing death was near, they placed an unholy burden on her only son. After his sister left for college, Ward shouldered the guilt alone. He would one day tell a jury that as his father turned to booze for comfort, the family spiraled into poverty, and Ward, still just a child, learned his first lesson about street life downtown, where he begged for money.
His intellect provided an escape from the hardships of home, and he eventually went off to college at the University of Wisconsin. There, through his joint communications and psychology studies, Ward took an interest in counseling and joined a co-op program for disadvantaged kids. He left with a Ph.D. in mass communications, and in 1970, at just 28, he earned an assistant professorship at Harvard Business School. There was also a woman in his life, who would one day be memorialized in a framed photo Ward displayed in his Ardmore home. When the boys asked, he’d tell them she was his fiancée, pregnant with their child when she was killed in a car accident. Ward said little else about her. Whatever baggage he carried with him from Pittsburgh and Wisconsin was buried deep at Harvard as Scott Ward, the lonely pauper son of an alcoholic, became Dr. Ward, Ivy League professor and part-time youth counselor.
In Boston, Ward’s interest in troubled children intensified as he learned firsthand how the child welfare system works, and how it could be manipulated. He joined the staff of Alpha Omega, a home for white, middle-class kids struggling with alcohol, drug and behavior problems, compounded by, in many cases, a history of sexual trauma. Alpha Omega’s sprawling grounds in Littleton provided a secluded haven in the suburbs, much like the one Ward would eventually establish at his Main Line house. Ward learned Gestalt therapy there, too. Unlike traditional psychoanalysis, Gestalt doesn’t focus on interpretation, but rather on what a patient is feeling “here and now.” The therapist designs “experiments,” verbal or physical exercises aimed at encouraging self-discovery and breaking down internal conflicts. It can be a powerful process, deeply emotional for both the patient and therapist. Kids at Alpha Omega thought Ward was a psychiatrist.
He also met Alpha Omega’s director, the Reverend Bernie Lane. Lane had a reputation among his colleagues for being overly emotional with the children, a little too quick to defend them rather than discipline them. In 1978, the state received a sexual abuse complaint from one of the boys Lane would invite to his waterfront vacation cottage in New Hampshire. Investigators, swayed by the church’s influence, allowed Lane to resign, and the Archdiocese of Boston simply, quietly, relocated him to another parish.
It may have been coincidence, but shortly after Lane was accused of molestation, Ward left Harvard and his brownstone on Beacon Hill for Wharton. He arrived in Philadelphia armed with all the tools he’d need to satisfy his lust and get away with it — psychological training, a thorough understanding of the child welfare system, and a talent for convincing those around him that his desire to help kids was selfless and pure.
FOLLOWING THE OCTOBER 1993 arrest at Ward’s Ardmore mansion, two cases began against him — one based on the sting, the other on charges stemming from the testimony of Bruce Martin, who had stepped forward. But almost immediately, there were problems. On the Monday after Ward’s arrest, Bruce Castor approached his boss, Montgomery County D.A. Mike Marino, with some unfortunate news. From inside their disguised van, Castor and his detectives had watched as the cassette reels turned, and two meters would bing! periodically while the recorder captured the conversation between Ward and the undercover trooper. What they didn’t notice was a malfunction that rendered the tape completely blank. Castor sent a memo to his detectives, assessing the temperature of their boss: “It is impossible to communicate his displeasure adequately here, but suffice it to say that he was extremely angry that we had not thoroughly tested our equipment.”
Realizing his airtight case had sprung a sizable leak, Castor ordered his investigators to dig deeper into Ward’s perverse network. Detectives Ray Kuter and James Burke pursued even the most obscure leads, faxing a potential source in China and calling Scotland Yard in search of a child porn dealer in England whom Ward allegedly knew. All dead ends. Their spirits lifted when Kuter and Burke flew to the Philippines in search of a boy named Rhyan Flores, who had lived with Ward for a year as a foreign exchange student. Escorted by a colonel from the Philippine army, the detectives found the Flores family in a dirt-floored hovel that they said Ward purchased for them for $2,000, an upgrade from their previous shack. This was another important aspect of Ward’s schemes — as he made his victims’ families financially dependent on him, the boys were afraid that if they spoke out, everything he’d provided would disappear. Yet Rhyan’s anguish overpowered his fear. With tears trickling down his face, he described to the detectives how he and other boys would pleasure Ward at a hotel in Manila, and how he had done similar things when he lived with Ward in Ardmore. Surely Rhyan’s revelation, coupled with the strength of Bruce Martin’s claims against Ward — social workers also documented his claims of abuse — made it almost certain the prosecution would score at least one solid conviction between the two cases.
That’s when Ward appeared to get lucky again. If a junkie needs money, he seeks the path of least resistance, and Bruce, strung out and on the streets once more, knew Ward was in a bit of a pickle. He called Ward in February 1994 to ask for money, with no regard for how his actions might impact Ward’s trial. Bruce wanted to grab a few thousand in cash and then disappear — from Ward, the cops, the lawyers, everyone. Recognizing an opportunity, Ward happily agreed to meet him, inviting Bruce to the office of a private eye in Jersey, where consent isn’t necessary to record conversations. More than a year later, jurors would watch Ward’s trap reveal itself on grainy videotape. Bruce’s attempt to get some fast cash and run away now looked like extortion — Give me money and I won’t testify that you abused me. Ward, well aware he was on camera, said to Bruce, “So basically you are asking me to pay you $12,000 to tell the truth.” Bruce replied, “Yeah.”
That primal grunt, uttered in a drugged haze, did for Bruce’s case what the blank tape had done for the undercover sting trial — _destroyed it. Ward had set Bruce up perfectly. When he left the county courthouse the day the tape was shown to the jury, Ward told the media, “I’ve waited a year and a half for that tape to be played.”
The video could seem like manifest luck, but as Ward himself might point out, it was only luck as defined by the Roman philosopher Seneca — preparation meeting opportunity. Ward actually began building his own defense the day he chose society’s castoffs as his companions. It was almost as if he could imagine how his word — that of an Ivy League professor — would play against that of his gritty, street-urchin victims in court. In November 1995, Bruce Martin’s case ended with Ward’s acquittal on all charges.
WARD’S CONFIDENCE ONLY GREW as the second trial moved forward. When questioned about his nonprofit Rebound Foundation — why there was no paperwork for it, no records of a staff or a single meeting of its phantom officers — Ward simply quipped, “This wasn’t General Motors.” His lawyer, Jean Green, one of the most respected and feared defense attorneys in Montgomery County, filed challenge after challenge, living up to the sign hanging in Green’s office: “Justice Delayed Is Justice Achieved.”
Meanwhile, prosecutors suffered more setbacks. The feds wouldn’t help them bring Rhyan Flores over from the Philippines for a trial appearance, and nearly everything seized in the raid of Ward’s mansion — the NAMBLA letterhead, the letter inside the Time magazine — was thrown out, since none of it was directly related to the charges of soliciting sex from an undercover cop. On the stand, Ward described how his own hard-luck childhood inspired him to help these kids. He also seemed to talk his way out of every corner, often by highlighting his own expertise. Why had he asked Spanky what “bisexual” means?
“Because if he was in fact gay or bisexual … he really ought to get some counseling in the gay community.”
Why had he asked if Spanky was clean-cut?
“I live in a very conservative neighborhood, and I didn’t want somebody with purple hair or outrageous dress showing up at my house. It’s been my experience, and it’s also documented in literature on delinquency and counseling, that if somebody has purple hair and earrings and outrageously dresses … they don’t want society’s help. And my experience is if somebody doesn’t want help, you can’t give them help.”
The last chance to prove Ward’s abuse slipped away as the Hoffman brothers — Frannie, Mark and Ian — insisted they were never abused by Ward, and took the stand in his defense. Then the jury listened as Ward recalled seeing Frannie for the first time, in his mid-teens, cold and battered by sleet, hitchhiking down Delaware Avenue one night, then giving him a ride home to Kensington, where he met the boy’s parents and younger brothers. Ward was particularly moved by memories of Mark, who’d been illiterate. On the witness stand, as Ward recalled tutoring Mark, he choked up.
“Are you all right?” asked Green.
“Very proud of him,” Ward said.
“Are you okay to go on?”
“Yes, it’s all right. I’m very proud of him.”
Jurors dismissed one charge and deadlocked on the other two, prompting a retrial, but the prosecutors had no new evidence. In June 1999, nearly six years after his arrest, Ward pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors — attempting to promote prostitution, and attempting to corrupt minors — through a loophole called an Alford plea, in which he acknowledged enough evidence to convict him, but didn’t admit guilt. Judge Gerald Corso sentenced him to five years’ probation and a $2,500 fine — about what Ward earned in two hours of consulting work. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported how Corso noted that Ward’s “character, academic reputation, and clean criminal record were factors in his decision.” Before Ward left the courtroom unshackled, Corso told him, “My opinion is that you will respond very appropriately to probation. I would say this is not likely to recur.”
DESPITE HIS PLEA, WARD insisted he was innocent. “Sometimes you have to sacrifice what is right for what is practical and expedient,” he told reporters, sidestepping the fact that his own legal team had fought expediency on a daily basis. “As a practical matter, I entered a guilty plea for a crime I did not commit. … I wanted to put this sad chapter behind me.”
Perhaps the only parties more interested in not only closing that chapter but ripping its pages out completely were Wharton and Penn, notoriously publicity -conscious institutions that had endured a slow, steady barrage of negative press thanks to their disgraced marketing professor. Neither Wharton nor Penn will discuss the internal evaluation that followed Ward’s sentencing, but dismissing a tenured faculty member is a major undertaking, not just among the Ivies, but at all colleges and universities. Penn’s policies stated that “serious crimes, such as, but not limited to, murder or rape” could lead to firing. Ward, however, had just two misdemeanors, and he posed no known threat to his students.
It seems almost certain, though, that Wharton took steps behind the scenes to ease Ward out of the Penn community. If that was the case, once again Ward seemed to win the chess match. Though he taught only 22 courses from 1999 through 2005, Wharton still paid for him to teach at its partner school in Bangkok — an especially baffling arrangement, since right there, in his CV filled with research on kids and his consulting jobs overseas, is the blueprint for his lifestyle, one made possible in large part by his connection to Penn. New students, not to mention their parents, were not alerted to their professor’s past — and in 2002, with two years still left in Ward’s probation, Wharton’s MBA classes bestowed on him their “Tough, But We’ll Thank You In Five Years” award.
That same year, as Ward quietly continued his probation, hoping to close one “sad chapter” in his life’s story, another old one opened up. After Boston’s archdiocese settled at least six abuse cases linked to former Alpha Omega director Bernie Lane, eight more lawsuits were filed in Boston against Lane. One of them, initiated by two unidentified males, also accused “psychiatrist” Scott Ward of molestation. The Boston Globe and the Associated Press mentioned Ward in their reports on the lawsuits, and Ward moved swiftly to settle with both parties — the same tactic he used when he paid Bruce Martin $50,000 to end a civil suit confidentially, with no mess and no public records.
The Alpha Omega accusations apparently didn’t violate Ward’s probation, which he completed without incident. They also didn’t move Wharton to take action, but in 2005, at just 62, still relatively young by academic standards, Ward accepted professor emeritus status — a curious decision, considering he told family and friends that his legal battles had drained his fortune, and that he’d moved to a more modest spread in Devon. Yet no one in Philadelphia even seemed aware of his connection to the Bernie Lane scandal. He continued to teach and travel overseas. The Hoffmans still defended him. But Ward’s arrogance and addiction would soon resurrect something neither his checkbook nor his genius could overcome.
WHEN WARD WAS ASKED IN court about the first time he met the Hoffman brothers, his answer wasn’t wholly untrue. The Hoffman home on Blair Street was indeed a scene of abject poverty. Mom and dad got high on coke in the upstairs bathroom — never in front of the kids — so when one of their five boys or their daughter couldn’t hold out any longer, a bucket in the kitchen served as a toilet. Dinner came courtesy of welfare checks or credits at the corner store, and the menu was often rice cakes topped with government cheese.
What both Ward and Frannie Hoffman, the oldest brother, would lie about under oath was how they really met — not in a chance encounter along the riverfront, but at Ward’s favorite rendezvous, the 30th Street McDonald’s. The meeting was orchestrated by Al Georigi, who said he knew Frannie as a drug dealer and told him about a guy in Ardmore who wanted to meet him and his brother Mark. Ward asked the boys: How do you live? Do you go to school? Can I meet your parents? — the same questions he would ask Bruce Martin and Spanky, the undercover cop. Ward couldn’t have designed a better family for his purposes — stoned parents who wouldn’t question why a Wharton professor wanted to throw money their way, put their kids in private schools, and send them a 25-pound turkey each Thanksgiving. Though some of Frannie’s relatives feared he was hustling to supplement his drug money, Frannie never admitted it. He was a little older than Ward liked his boys. His younger brother Mark, though, became Ward’s favorite.
Mark was about 13 when he left Kensington to live with Ward full-time, and convinced Ward to bring Ian along so Mark wouldn’t be lonely. It seemed like meeting Ward was the only blessing the two boys had been granted in their young lives. They had their own rooms in Ward’s mansion, filled with NBA posters and clothes Ward bought for them. Car rides were opportunities to learn, as Ward, whose mind seemed to have no off switch, peppered them with brain teasers: Who are the only non-presidents on U.S. currency? He took them, and sometimes their younger brother Corey, to Cape Cod, Hawaii, Disney World, the Virgin Islands. More often, though, Mark was Ward’s only travel companion. Who else from Kensington could say he’d seen the Queen’s jewels in London? Stood in China? Walked the streets of Paris? Splashed in the Seven Pools waterfalls on the island of Maui? Mark’s school even excused him from class, knowing Ward would see to it he did his homework. Still, the boys’ father never liked Ward — called him a faggot, but only after he had a load on. Their mom thought “Uncle Scott,” as the kids began calling him, was a guardian angel.
There were stories, though. Stories that didn’t seem so strange then, but that now reach out to grab you by both shoulders and shake you. The first concerned an incident in Ward’s home on Maui, when Ian and Corey started a colossal water fight in the bathroom. Like his old friend Bernie Lane from Alpha Omega, Ward was extremely permissive with his boys, so Corey remembers being stunned when Ward broke up their hijinks by grabbing Corey and spanking him as the boy cried out, “Mark! Mark!” When Mark Hoffman appeared in the doorway, Ward threw Corey off his lap and held up his arms to block Mark’s haymakers. “If you touch my brothers again, I’ll fucking kill you!” Mark said. “I don’t need you!” On the flight home, Mark said to Corey, “Don’t tell Daddy about this.”
Ian doesn’t remember the spanking incident, but instead fast-forwards to Ward’s Ardmore house when he was about 14. All Ward wanted was for Ian to do a few chores, but being a wiseass, Ian kept saying “Hold on” without moving an inch. Something set Ward off again, and he took Ian’s own hand and slapped the boy in the face with it. Again, Mark came rushing to defend his brother. “What the fuck did you do to him?” he screamed, before taking Ian upstairs, packing their bags, and walking to the train station. Ward drove behind them, pleading for them to come back, but Mark, enraged at seeing Ward abuse his brother, decided he preferred whatever awaited back in Kensington, at least for one night.
For Mark, Ward was both a savior and something much more complicated. Without Ward’s help, Mark might never have learned to read, and the most exotic locale he’d have visited would likely have been Wildwood. His friends were so jealous. But in the years after Ward’s first arrest, Mark withdrew, turning to drugs, running in and out of prison, and closing himself off from almost everyone around him — including his girlfriend, Stephanie, and their young daughter. Ian and Corey remember all the time Mark and Uncle Scott would spend in Ward’s bedroom, reading together. It didn’t seem so strange then.
ASK ANY COP WHO’S WORKED the pedophile beat, and you’ll hear a truism about child molesters that separates them from most criminals — they will almost certainly strike again. The only question is whether they’ll get busted. Ward must have known how dumb it was to walk through customs last August with a laptop full of kiddie porn, how stupid it was to send boy-love DVDs starring himself to himself, at work. Just the act of mailing his stash was a federal crime. He did it all anyway. In the end, Ward’s downfall may have been his own addiction, a lust powerful enough to make a brilliant professor stop thinking just long enough to finally get caught.
After Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers swept through Ward’s Wharton office last summer, Penn issued a terse statement saying Ward would never teach at the school again. The administration may have moved on, but the faculty hasn’t completely washed its hands of Ward. David Reibstein knew him back when they taught at Harvard together, before they became two of Wharton’s most popular marketing professors. When Judge Corso decided to keep Ward out of jail, it was partly due to testimony like that of Reibstein, who spoke on Ward’s behalf. Today, he declines comment, as do many of his colleagues. When asked about the eerie silence from Wharton’s marketing department, one faculty member reveals the frustration, and the rage, beneath the surface at Huntsman Hall, as smart men who are rarely told they’re wrong try to sort out how, on the subject of Scott Ward, they could have been so bamboozled. “The guy was a liar!” says a professor who knew Ward. “Fool me once, fool me twice, fool me three times, then I’m done with you. He’ll get what he deserves.”
Then there are the kids, the ones Ward “helped,” all grown now. Al Georigi’s name was last heard in Philadelphia court as a judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest on a robbery charge. Bruce Martin, now 30, heard about Ward’s latest trouble from his mom, who called him at the State Correctional Institute in Huntingdon, where he’s spent the past four years for sticking up a 7-Eleven with a starter pistol in the midst of a crack binge. Bruce hopes to be out this month, and says he’s determined to stay clean this time.
About an hour northwest, Frannie Hoffman wears the same brown Department of Corrections uniform as Bruce. He violated his parole by using his sledgehammer fists on a loudmouth at a bar in his old neighborhood. His brother Ian delivers appliances and lives with his fiancée, their four kids and the fiancée’s mom in a Juniata public-housing unit. His days are long, but at least he’s not locked up. Neither is Corey, who also has four kids and rents a house in Bryn Mawr, thanks mostly to his wife, a nurse. When Corey isn’t spreading hot tar on rooftops, he’s studying criminal justice at a community college. Corey and Ian both have the same tattoo on their forearms, a Chinese symbol they were told means “strong family.” While all the Hoffmans now believe Ward is guilty, they’re still quick to point out how much he did for them. What no one discusses is that the most damaged Hoffman is the one Ward “helped” the most.
IN LATE AUGUST, AFTER MARK Hoffman heard that Ward had again been arrested, he disappeared. It wasn’t unusual for Mark, now 31, to vanish for days. His brothers called it “going on a mission,” those times when he would take off on a drug bender and blow every dollar he had on coke, pills or crack. This time, though, it was different. Something was churning inside him, like the first swift winds of a storm that suddenly corkscrew into a tornado. Mark talked of taking his own life. Instead, though, he reached out to his ex-girlfriend, Stephanie. For reasons maybe only he understands, it was time for Mark to let go.
Stephanie listened as he revealed long -buried secrets he’d never admitted — not to his parents, not to his brothers, not to any cop, lawyer or judge. The time Mark spent in Scott Ward’s bedroom hadn’t been just for reading. “All I wanted was to be a kid,” he told her. As Mark wept at his confession, Stephanie, too, began crying. She remembered when she was 16, pregnant and living with him at the Ardmore mansion. Ward would tell her not to disturb him as he’d take the phone off the hook, then bring one of his Brazilian exchange students into his room for study time. God, she thought, how hard was it for Mark to leave the house, suspecting that Ward would do the same things to those boys? Over the next week, Mark called her a few times a day, unloading his burden piece by piece until the sting of his memories became too much, and he’d hang up.
This past September, federal agents investigating Ward’s recent arrest also spoke to Mark. As word spread through his family, the reaction was mixed. Some members wondered why he hadn’t resisted Ward’s advances. He should have known better. At the very least, he could have told his buddies back home about that fag and enjoyed some street justice the next time Ward passed through Kensington. But Mark would have been branded a queer, too. And where would the social workers have sent him? Would he ever have seen his brothers or his parents again? So he suffered silently — from the abuse itself, and from the emotional captivity in which Ward trapped him and, with the financial aid, his entire family. Mark’s revelation will likely have no impact on Ward’s upcoming trial, scheduled for February. But for the first time since he met Ward at 30th Street Station, Mark is finally helping himself — and Bruce Martin, Al Georigi and the rest — in a way Ward never could.
It’s doubtful, though, that in telling the story of Scott Ward’s double life, Mark, wounded marrow-deep, will find new freedom from it. In November, as he sat on the couch in his sister’s living room with his mom, awaiting a court date of his own for attempted burglary, he still seemed at odds with his feelings toward Ward. As recently as the winter of 2005, Ward paid $900 toward his mom’s mortgage. Mark stayed with her when he wasn’t in jail or out getting high — without Ward, where would they have lived? When Mrs. Hoffman was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was Ward who helped with her chemo bills. He still sent her checks at Christmas with instructions on how to divide them among her kids. Mark always got the biggest cut.
“He definitely was interested in helping,” Mark said, softly, the young boy now grown, tattoos covering his forearms. “But he was also hurting kids. I didn’t know how to read [before meeting him]. I’m not trying to say what he did was all right, because it’s not.”
Mrs. Hoffman, who still hasn’t talked to Mark directly about what really happened, also acknowledged Ward’s generosity toward her family. But then, as Mark sat silently, she added, “He is definitely a pedophile.” Mark said he had more to tell, but he didn’t want to discuss it with his mom in the room. He agreed to a meeting the next day, and that night went home to look through his photo albums for snapshots he’s kept all these years, images of him with Ward from around the globe. But whatever those memories and those pictures summoned would be buried again as Mark, once more, disappeared.
Perhaps he can find some fleeting satisfaction in what his abuser’s life has become. Ward has been in custody since his arrest in August. Maui, Cape Cod and the Main Line are only memories for the fallen professor, who has a roommate in a cell built for one at the Arlington Detention Center in Virginia. There’s no open space for jogging and no outdoor privileges, so he’s gained weight. He sleeps a lot. He’s even resorted to television for entertainment, a true sign he’s depressed despite the not-guilty plea he’s entered. When Ward called his older sister, Sue, in a suburb of San Diego, he sounded low and didn’t discuss his old trials. In fact, though Sue and her husband spoke to Ward steadily through the ’90s and stayed with him in Ardmore at least four times, they didn’t know about the previous charges at all until his latest arrest. When told about her brother’s testimony 10 years ago, Sue confirmed the story about their dying mother. But upon hearing Ward’s other tales — that he had a pregnant fiancée, that their father was a drunk, that their family was destitute, that Ward himself begged for money — Sue was incredulous, especially regarding Ward’s days as a beggar. “That’s the biggest lie I have ever heard in my life,” she said. “Good heavens, my dad belonged to a country club. I think Scott was trying to save his own skin. Which I guess he did.”
Ward recently wrote a two-page letter to Jerry Bessette, a close friend from Cape Cod, and Bessette says that for the first time since he’s known Ward, the professor sounds contrite. Bessette, Ward’s power of attorney and perhaps his last ally, admits that even he can’t defend his old buddy anymore. “He’s a first-class manipulative person,” he says. “His life is ruined.” Stripped of his academic title, abandoned by his colleagues and friends, and unmasked by the boys who suffered for his perverse love, Ward now resembles so many of the kids he hurt — jailed, hopeless and alone.