Esther Reed

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Esther Elizabeth Reed
Born (1978-03-08) March 8, 1978 (age 37)
Townsend, Montana, U.S.
Other names Elizabeth Reed
Brooke Henson
Natalie Fisher
Natalie Bowman
Jennifer Myers
Criminal charge Mail fraud
Wire fraud
Identity theft
Social Security fraud
Criminal penalty 51 months
Criminal status Released from prison on 10/27/2011
Conviction(s) Fraud
Identity scam

Esther Elizabeth Reed (born March 8, 1978) is an American woman convicted of fraud and identity theft charges. She is best known for gaining entry to the open-admission Harvard Extension School and Columbia University School of General Studies using stolen identities, including that of missing person Brooke Henson.[1][2][3]


Early life and education[edit]

Reed was born in 1978 in Townsend, Montana to Ernie and Florence Reed and was the youngest of Florence's eight children. When her parents separated in the early 1990s, Reed moved with her mother to Lynnwood, Washington. Reed dropped out of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington,[4][5] and three years later, Florence died of colon cancer.[6]

Missing person[edit]

Reed disappeared in October 1999 shortly after pleading guilty in King County, Washington to stealing her sister's checkbook.[7][8] She was reported missing in 2004 by her father after Social Security checks revealed she was alive.[9][10][11] She completed a GED program in Ohio at some point.[12][13]

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.[14]

She assumed the identity of Natalie Bowman, the name of the sister of an acquaintance, to take classes at the open-admission Harvard Extension School in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[15][16][17] While in Cambridge, Reed joined Harvard's debate team as they travelled across the country.[18][19][20][21][22][23]

After leaving Massachusetts, 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 Air Assault School.[8]

Between 2004 and 2006 Reed took classes at Columbia University School of General Studies in New York City, using the identity of Brooke Henson, a missing person from Travelers Rest, 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.[24][21][25][26][27][28][29] 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.[30][31]

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.[32][33] 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.[21][34]


Main article: Lane Bryant shooting

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. (Reed's car was in a Sleepy Inn motel parking lot in the area.) Federal marshals and police knocked on her door at the Sleepy Inn and asked her for her ID. The authorities noticed that the ID she handed them was fake, so she was transported to the police station for questioning, and confessed.[35][36][37]


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 alleged social anxiety disorder caused by a strict family upbringing.[38][39][40]

She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 51 months in prison. She was released from federal prison on October 27, 2011.[41] Reed's Federal Bureau of Prisons register number was 40024-424.[42]


  1. ^ Goldman, Russell; Michels, Scott (February 4, 2008). "Feds Nab Suspected Ivy Leage (sic) ID Fraudster". ABC News. 
  2. ^ "Reed Charged With ID Theft". Harvard Crimson. February 19, 2009. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (November 1, 2007). "Feds searching for local woman in ID theft cases". The Seattle Times. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (November 1, 2007). "Feds searching for local woman in ID theft cases". The Seattle Times. 
  8. ^ a b Alpert, Lukas I. (January 8, 2007). "ID Theft 101: Beauty Cons Her Way Onto Ivys' Rolls As An Ed. Ringer". New York Post. Retrieved October 6, 2009. 
  9. ^ Garvey, Marianne; Alpert, Lukas I. (January 12, 2007). "Ivy Gal Fled Her Past". New York Post. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  10. ^ Leonard, Tom (March 4, 2008). "Woman's 'nine-year identity fraud spree'". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  11. ^ Alpert, Lukas I.; Garvey, Marianne (January 22, 2007). "Sick Psych-Out". New York Post. Retrieved October 10, 2009. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ Stasi, Linda (December 1, 2007). "How Did She Do It?". New York Post. Retrieved October 6, 2009. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ Ward, Vicky (February 11, 2009). "Esther Reed: How an Ordinary Girl Faked Her Way Into the Ivy League". Huffington Post. 
  19. ^ Pignatelli, Margherita (February 19, 2009). "Reed Charged With ID Theft". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved October 6, 2009. 
  20. ^ Porter, Jane (August 28, 2008). "U.S. Colleges Stumped by Fraudulent Applications". Business Week. Retrieved October 6, 2009. 
  21. ^ a b c "Capture The Queen". CBS News. December 1, 2007. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  22. ^ Tuchman, Gary (January 19, 2007). "Woman steals another's identity, gets into Ivy League". CNN. Retrieved October 6, 2009. 
  23. ^ "Esther Reed – The secret life of a sophisticated identity thief". Credit Identity Safe. February 8, 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-06. 
  24. ^ Ward, Vicky (February 11, 2009). "How an Ordinary Girl Faked Her Way Into the Ivy League". Huffington Post. Retrieved October 6, 2009. 
  25. ^ "Wie sich eine Hochstaplerin durchs Leben log". Welt Online (in German). December 14, 2007. Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  26. ^ Olimpio, Guido (November 4, 2007). "Il giallo della donna dai mille volti "Truffatrice o nuova Mata Hari?"". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). 
  27. ^ Tuchman, Gary (January 19, 2007). "Woman steals another's identity, gets into Ivy League". CNN. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  28. ^ Biegelman, Martin T. (2009). "Entry to the Ivy League through ID theft". Identity Theft Handbook: Detection, Prevention, and Security. John Wiley and Sons. pp. 50–52. ISBN 0-470-17999-6. 
  29. ^ Bennett, Chuck (May 8, 2009). "Ivy Con Gal Planned A Lifelong Lie". New York Post. Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  30. ^ "Con Artist Pleads Guilty to Stealing Missing Woman's Identity to Get Into Ivy League School". Fox News. August 19, 2009. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  31. ^ Olimpio, Guido (December 4, 2008). "Usa: tutti a caccia della "regina"". Corriere della Sera (in Italian). Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  32. ^ Sullivan, Jennifer (February 6, 2008). "Mountlake Terrace con artist suspect nabbed after nearly a decade on the run". Seattle Times. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  33. ^ "Most Wanted Fugitive Ester Reed Captured". Fiscal Year 2008 Annual Report (PDF). United States Secret Service. p. 15. 
  34. ^ "Catch Her If You Can". CBS News. May 9, 2009. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  35. ^
  36. ^ Daily News (New York)  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^ Schafer, Susanne M. (February 10, 2009). "Defense seeks court mercy for Ivy League ID thief". Fox News. Retrieved October 7, 2009. 
  40. ^ Leonard, Tom (February 11, 2009). "Ivy League identity thief 'was hiding from strict family'". The Telegraph (London). Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  41. ^ "Esther Elizabet Reed." [sic] Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on 2011-10-30.
  42. ^ "Esther Elizabet Reed." [sic] Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 10, 2010.

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