March 8, 1978 |
Townsend, Montana, U.S.
|Other names||Elizabeth Reed
|Criminal charge||Mail fraud
Social Security fraud
|Criminal penalty||51 months|
|Criminal status||Released from prison|
Esther Elizabeth Reed (born March 8, 1978) is an American convicted on fraud and identity theft charges. She is best known for assuming a number of identities, including that of missing person Brooke Henson, to gain entry to universities.
Early life and education
Reed was born in Townsend, Montana to Ernie and Florence Reed in 1978 and was the youngest of Florence's eight children. When her parents separated in the early 1990s, Esther moved with her mother to Lynnwood, Washington, where she dropped out of high school after a year, shortly after her mother died from cancer.
Reed disappeared in October 1999 shortly after she was convicted of stealing her sister's checkbook. She was reported missing in 2004 by her father after Social Security checks revealed she was alive.
At various times she claimed to be a skilled chess player, and claimed chess tournaments as her income to friends to cover up her financial scams.
She assumed the identity of Natalie Bowman, the name of the sister of an acquaintance, to attend Harvard University. At Harvard, Reed joined the debating team as they travelled across the country.
After leaving Harvard, Reed became romantically involved with a number of cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point and at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. The US Army Criminal Investigation Command investigated Reed, believing she might have been involved in espionage, when she attempted to procure a certificate from the Army's Assault School.
Between 2004 and 2006 Reed attended Columbia University, using the identity of Brooke Henson, a missing person from South Carolina. In 2006 after an internet search by a potential employer revealed Brooke Henson's real identity, police in South Carolina alerted New York City police to Reed. After agreeing to give DNA to prove she was indeed Brooke Henson, Esther Reed fled New York City and relocated to Chicago, and changed her identity to Jennifer Myers.
Reed was featured on the United States Secret Service's 10-most-wanted fugitive list and America's Most Wanted on the Fox Television Network. She was featured twice in 48 Hours Mystery episodes on CBS the first, Capture the Queen, aired in 2007, and the second, Catch Her If You Can, aired in 2009.
Finally on February 3, 2008, in Tinley Park, Illinois, she was captured by Tinley Park Police who coincidentally were searching the entire area for a gunman who shot and killed five women at a Lane Bryant store. The police were checking all out of state license plates in the area and Esther's car was in a hotel parking lot nearby. They knocked at her door and asked for ID--it came back invalid. The police brought her into the station for more questioning when she finally confessed.
Esther Reed was then extradited to South Carolina where she was tried on four felony charges and a potential sentence of 47 years in prison. Her defense lawyer, Ann Fitz, argued that her behavior was a result of mental illness caused by a strict family upbringing.
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- "Most Wanted Fugitive Ester Reed Captured". Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Report. United States Secret Service. p. 15.
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- "Esther Elizabet Reed." [sic] Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on 2011-10-30.
- "Esther Elizabet Reed." [sic] Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 10, 2010.
- The Girl Who Conned The Ivy League, Rolling Stone magazine, Issue 1080, June 11, 2009