Harvard Crime: More Notorious Than Noteworthy

Illustration of the courtroom during the Copney trial for the murder of Justin Cosby.
Illustration of the courtroom during the Copney trial for the murder of Justin Cosby.

While Harvard graduates include Nobel Prize winners, celebrities, and Wall Street moguls, the University admits future criminals, too. Flyby reports on the most infamous crimes that have taken place on Harvard's campus in the past few decades.

Stealing $120,000 From Kids with Cancer

Boston kids with cancer were supposed to receive $120,000 of support from Harvard students, but Charles K. Lee '93 stole this substantial donation before it ever reached charity. An Eliot House senior, Lee was one of the co-chairs of "An Evening with Champions," an Eliot House-organized ice skating show that benefits children's cancer research at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. While serving as co-chair, Lee wrote 83 separate checks to himself, ranging in value from $50  to $7,862, for a total of $119,881.26 stolen. According to one friend, "[Lee] wanted to epitomize Eliot House" through showcasing conspicuous and lavish spending and developing an old money image for himself.

Lee's crime was discovered after his 1993 graduation and he plead guilty in court in Feb. 1995. His sentence amounted to a single year in jail, 10 years of probation, and 100 hours of community service each year until he repaid all of the stolen money. Harvard did not annul his diploma.

A Murder in Dunster

On May 28, 1995, Sinedu Tadesse '96 woke up and attacked her roommate Trang Phoung Ho '96 while Ho was still lying in bed. Tadesse stabbed Ho 45 times with a hunting knife, stabbed Ho's friend Thao Nguyen who was visiting for the weekend, and then hung herself from the shower curtain pole in their bathroom in Dunster H-21. Nguyen, a 26-year-old resident of Lowell, Mass., survived the incident, while Ho and Tadeese, both juniors at the College, died.

Shortly after the incident, Tadesse Zelleke, Tadesse's father, told The Crimson that Tadesse considered Ho her best friend. Soon after the murder, it was speculated on campus that Tadesse assaulted Ho after Ho asked not to room with her again the next fall. After the tragic event, the college established a new financial aid scholarship, the Trang Ho Public Service Fellowship, in Ho's memory.

A TV, Some DVDs, and a Crazy Party

Imagine having $100,000 to spend on your friend's birthday party. That's the budget that Randy J. Gomes '02 had at his fingertips when he planned a birthday bash for his close friend Suzanne M. Pomey '02—needless to say, the party was open bar. Gomes and Pomey embezzled $100,000 from the Hasty Pudding Theatricals when they both had access to the Pudding's bank account their senior year. Authorities think that they used this money to purchase a flatscreen TV, a DJ machine, close to 100 DVDs, drugs, and clothes, among many other expensive items.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to dismiss Pomey and Gomes after the incident, a very rare and severe punishment at Harvard. After being denied their degrees they pleaded guilty and escaped with marks on their criminal records but no jail time—only five years of probation for Gomes and two for Pomey.

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