Harvard Identity Thief Arrested

Indicted identity thief and pseudo-Harvard alumna Esther E. Reed had her post-graduate endeavours cut short this weekend when local police officers arrested the fugitive at a hotel in Tinley Park, Ill., according to a Secret Service spokesperson.

Using the identity of a missing woman from South Carolina and Harvard graduate Natalie M. Bowman ’99, Reed attended Columbia University and the Harvard Extension School, according to the Associated Press.

The real Bowman, a chemistry concentrator from Kirkland House and a graduate of Columbia Medical School, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Reed pleaded not guilty to federal charges of mail fraud and wire fraud.

Ed Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman, said Reed had been on the service’s Most Wanted List—a group of eight fugitive fraudsters—since December 2007.

Reed had been indicted in September 2007 in Greenville, S.C., on charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft, Donovan said.

Reed attended the Extension School for “a very short period of time sometime before 2005 and after 2002...maybe just for a couple of classes,” New York Post reporter Lukas I. Alpert, who has covered Reed’s travails, told The Crimson last year.

Director of Undergraduate Admissions Marlyn E. McGrath ’70 said that admissions officers “remain vigilant” about the possibility of identity theft.

“We’re careful with any candidate,” McGrath said, adding that with all the documentation required to apply to Harvard College, “it would be very hard” to apply using a fake identity.

McGrath added that with nearly 27,000 applications, it would be extremely difficult to do identity checks on every application, and that Harvard currently did not employ any online identity verification system. McGrath nevertheless said she knew of no students with fake identities admitted to the College.

—Staff Writer Alexander B. Cohn can reached at abcohn@fas.harvard.edu.