Esther Reed – The secret life of a sophisticated identity thief
Slick and cunning are just a few of the words police have used to describe Esther Reed. The woman was a high school dropout who was able to con her way into some of the top colleges in the United States, including Columbia, California State University at Fullerton and Harvard. Esther stole the identities of different women and was able to become them in a short amount of time.
Devastated by the divorce of her parents and the death of her mother in 1998, Esther, who had been an above average student and attended her school’s debate team, dropped out and began stealing. She pled guilty to stealing and forging her sister’s cheques in 1999, and was put on probation. That’s the last time her family and friends saw her.
Esther Elizabeth Reed, also known as Brooke Henson and a host of other aliases, passed her SAT and attended the ivy-league universities studying psychology and criminology. Authorities say she applied for more than $100,000 in bogus student loans to help pay for her lifestyle and education at Columbia. She even briefly held a job in data processing at Columbia’s alumni office, meaning she had access to all the alumni records.
A Plot Perfect for a Hollywood Thriller
During her prolific criminal career, Esther dated cadets at West Point and mysteriously received large sums of money from Europe that has alarmed military officials due to potential acts of espionage. She also had plastic surgery in Florida and convinced some of her boyfriends of being a world chess champion – one of them challenged and beat her in a game online. (She soon left him.)
Police in the state of Vermont believe she was able to get access to a computer database that has a list of people who are currently missing, and found and assumed the identity of Brooke Henson, missing since 1999. Authorities do not know how she gained this confidential information.
Finding out how the con artist duped the universities could be difficult because she made the claim that she was a victim of domestic abuse. Because of these allegations, the universities are protecting her school records.
The Web of Lies Begins to Unravel
Reed ran from state to state assuming multiple identities that kept her one step ahead of the police. Her past eventually caught up to her when she began to look for a job. In June 2006 and under the identity of Brooke Henson, Esther Reed was discovered to be a fraud when a prospective employer who was considering Reed for a housekeeping position did a simple background search on the Internet.
The employer found a website for a missing woman named Brooke Henson and called the police to report the fraud. After years of scamming her way out of sticky situations, Reed had one more trick up her sleeve. When police got in touch with her, Esther claimed to be the real Brooke Henson, that she had run away from her parents, and agreed to take a DNA test to prove it. When the day arrived for the test, she never showed up. Police searched her apartment, and realized she had been careful to take any items that could be used to make a DNA match, including her hair and toothbrushes.
Esther Reed was finally caught a few days ago after a sharp-eyed police officer recognized her while on the lookout for a killer of an unrelated crime.
The Henson family is still feeling the impact of her fraud. Police had called them to report that after 8 years, their daughter was found alive and would be home with them soon. As they have since learned, it was just a clever woman who had stolen their daughter’s identity.
How Did She Do It?
We may never know why Esther Reed decided to go on a cross-country crime spree, but how she did it was disturbingly simple. Armed with the information from the police database, Reed was able to walk into Federal buildings and request new records. She used a picture ID that she received in Ohio and her college ID’s to get a copy of Brooke Henson’s birth Certificate.
Officials believe that employees and officials will fast track and look the other way to help a victim who has lost all of their identification, or even someone who claims to be a victim of domestic violence. Esther Reed is a beautiful young brunette and officials believe that she used her beauty to her advantage. Among the identity of missing victim Brooke Henson, Reed also stole and used the identities of Natalie Fisher, Natalie Bowman and Jenimarie Myers.