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Esther Reed

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Criminal penalty  51 months
Name  Esther Reed

Esther Reed wearing a black hat

Born  March 8, 1978 (age 45) (1978-03-08) Townsend, Montana, U.S.
Other names  Elizabeth ReedBrooke HensonNatalie FisherNatalie BowmanJennifer Myers
Criminal charge  Mail fraudWire fraudIdentity theftSocial Security fraud
Criminal status  Released from prison on 10/27/2011
Education  Harvard University, Columbia University

Conviction(s)  FraudIdentity scam

Similar  Frank Abagnale, Jordan Belfort, Adam Botbyl

The strange case of esther reed identity thief

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 Harvard Extension School and Columbia University School of General Studies using stolen identities, including that of missing person Brooke Henson.


Esther Reed wearing a black shirt and a pair of eyeglasses

A tale of two disappearances have you seen esther reed

Early life and education

Esther Reed carrying her backpack wearing a gray shirt

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, and three years later, Florence died of colon cancer.

Missing person

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

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 take classes at the open-admission Harvard Extension School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. While in Cambridge, Reed joined Harvard's debate team as they travelled across the country.

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.

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. 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. (Reed's car was in a Sleep Inn motel parking lot in the area.) Federal marshals and police knocked on her door at the Sleep 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.


Esther Reed was then extradited to South Carolina where she was tried on four felony charges and faced 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.

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


Esther Reed Wikipedia