Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Esther Reed Gets Four Years

I've posted about Esther Reed before. It's an incredible story. What I do not understand is why she is being sent to prison. The CIA should be hiring this woman! What money did she steal? Who did she rob? Who did she kill? She used other people's names, but in the end, who did she hurt? Anyone? I don't get it. Story at the Huffington Post Vicky Ward Contributing editor, Vanity Fair Esther Reed: How An Ordinary Girl Faked Her Way Into The Ivy League Today in a courtroom in South Carolina, Esther Elizabeth Reed's fantasies finally ended. The 30-year-old brunette, who has spent eight of the past ten years on the run, often entering Ivy League schools under adopted fake identities, and evading cops with an extraordinary web of deception, faces up to over four years in prison. For one man, Jon Campbell, a slight, sandy-haired tenacious investigator in the police department of the tiny town of Travelers Rest, South Carolina, it is the end of what became an obsessive case resembling the plot of Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks as the FBI detective Carl Hanratty always hotly in pursuit of his prey. Campbell was Reed's Hanratty. In summer 2006 Campbell had received a phone call from a police officer in New York. Campbell was informed that Brooke Henson, a beautiful young woman who had disappeared in peculiar circumstances from her family home in Travelers Rest in the early hours of July 4th 1999 when she was just twenty -- and had since become the town's only unsolved missing person -- had been found. She was, so Campbell was informed an honors student at the Ivy League school of Columbia on New York's upper West Side. New York police had gone to seek out the young woman on the Columbia campus after a New Yorker from whom she had been seeking part-time employment doing housework had googled her and seen she was listed as a missing person on the internet. Brooke Henson told police who interrogated her that she had no desire to be reunited with her family since she was a victim of domestic abuse. She wanted to be left alone to get on her with studies. She was very convincing. The New York police officer told Campbell that they intended to close Ms. Henson's file. Campbell replied that they could close the case if they liked but there was no way the woman they had found was the real Brooke Henson. "Take some DNA" he suggested. "The Brooke Henson I knew could never have got into Columbia" he said into the phone. The girl he knew was a high-school dropout, a party girl. Something in his voice made New York officer go the extra mile. The next day Campbell's phone rang again. Brooke Henson had failed to show for her DNA test. Campbell wasn't surprised. When, weeks later, New York cops forced entry into her apartment, they tripped over a pile of calling cards from New York officers. They had been dropped through the mailbox. They found no hair, no trace of anything that would have DNA. But they did find a video card, signed in Boston, MA bearing the name "Natalie Bowman." Once again they called Campbell and relayed their findings. Who was the young woman if it wasn't Brooke Henson? Officially this was his case. Campbell rolled up his sleeves and went to work. A 40-year-old graduate of Bob Jones university, he was more anxious than anyone to solve a mystery that had preyed on his mind and exasperated him for years. Back in 2001 he had been assigned the case and handed two boxes of "indecipherable" material. He had re-interviewed dozens of local people and taken DNA samples to try solve what had really happened to Brooke Henson and found himself thwarted at every turn. "Everyone in this town had a theory about what happened to Brooke," he said. "But none of them was right." Particularly exasperating for him were the prank calls. There was a medium who claimed to have seen her body beside "yellow rope" and then there was the inmate from a neighboring jurisdiction who got cops to drive him around in the pouring rain and dig. He was pretty sure Brooke Henson had been murdered and he thought he knew who had done it and even probably where. He had just never found a body -- much to his chagrin. So, he was intrigued by whoever this impostor was, pretending to be Brooke. Maybe she had information that could help him; maybe she had known the young woman. First he had to find out who she was. He began a lonely few months of phone calls and paper trails. He called Kim Finnergan head of security at Columbia. Finnergan was helpful at first but then stopped sending him documents once the school got "lawyered up." Thereafter they cited privacy laws. Campbell had to get a federal subpoena to force them to continue to help him. It was like pulling teeth. He learned there were two Natalie Bowmans. One was a dead end in that she is a bona fide medical graduate student at Columbia and a former graduate of Harvard. Another one showed up, before two years at Columbia, in Harvard's records. He saw she had been on the debate team there in 2002. From there she had apparently vanished. Harvard had no record of her graduating. Like Columbia, Harvard was not helpful. But Campbell learned that in both places her file was flagged as a victim of domestic abuse. It is possible both knew "Natalie Bowman" or "Brooke Henson" was not her real name. Campbell retraced the steps of Harvard debate team in 2002. Harvard had taken on West Point. A few more phone calls led him to Natalie Bowman's former boyfriends -- cadet officers who had been on West Point's debate team and who had since left to take senior military postings, including the supervising of others in Iraq. He called the parents of one young man, in Detroit. Finally he got the name he was looking for; the young man's parents believed the woman calling herself Natalie Bowman was really one, Esther Reed. They'd seen her driver's license which been issued in Seattle. Rest of story.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if there isn't more than that which authorities in this case are directing us to see. After all, this woman has now been convicted as a felon. So law enforcement will direct commentary on her case. She also made the naive choice of masquerading as a missing person. The Harvard Extension School is not Harvard Undergraduate School. Last time I took a class there, nobody wanted to see a transcript. It was open enrollment. But I notice that the sensationalist 48 Hours glosses over that, charging her with somehow faking her way into it. Yes, she had a fake name but did not use it to fake her way in since they don't (or didn't) have transcript requirements. Also, it is a lot cheaper than the larger school, but you might be able to get student loans while going there. She then took SATs (LSATs? even harder but necessary for law school) on which she scored well, after which she was admitted to Columbia, presumably based on her legitimate work at Harvard and her legitimate SATs (LSATs). But she was naive enough to try and disappear from what she said was a "toxic" family. I somehow believe that. She was the youngest of eight they say. In a poor family. Well? And here's the other thing - she does not look like her sister. I assumed she was an adopted Asian orphan. She looks totally like she is at least half Asian. Does nobody else notice this or are they too politically correct even while they are tearing into her? Someone probably stole her identity a long time ago, is what I initially thought, and she decided that if identity was that flexible (what Chinese name became 'Esther Reed'?) then she ought to get it back somehow. When someone was trying to accuse her of espionage, I figure they were thinking along those lines. They also smeared her for looking into men at online dating services, as though her sexual curiosity could be added as a make-weight to explain why she is in prison. I think she went to prison and is considered a felon mainly because she inadvertently hurt the feelings of a family who had a missing daughter, by taking her identity. Her taking it means she thought the girl was dead, and that sin against the family's hope is unforgivable in their sentiments. She is supposed to be a cautionary tale about sticking to your own class, a la Britain. The problem is, I think she is more intellectually curious than most of the people interviewing her, who themselves would never challenge the higher authorities in our society. Easier to kiss up and kick down. She is less a con artist in my opinion than someone people probably lied to about her origins, unless I am mistaken. And to me that would be unforgivable.

Anonymous said...

She played the system and she did it in an grandiose way.What is the difference between what she did and what Bush did? At least she had the brains. Bush is an idiot who had Cheney and his cronies plan out the big scam. Is it bevause she is Native American?

Jan said...

Hola, Anonymous. I do not know if you are the same person who posted or different Anons.

I have to tell you (both), I never gave it a thought about Esther Reed's ethnicity. Personally, I do not understand what she did that was so horrid. Did she defraud people of money? Did she commit robbery, mayhem or murder. Not as far as I am aware!

So she used a different name - it turned out she used the name of a deceased young lady. I do not understand why this is a crime. What if she had thought up a name out of the blue and it turned out to be identical to the name of the deceased young lady?

Is there more to the story behind the scenes that has not been published? What would be the purpose of withholding this information - if it exists? I do not know. I do not think we will ever know.

Esther may have hurt people emotionally, but she did not hurt them physically or rip anyone off financially, such as Bernie Madoff did. So why is she in prison - and Madoff is still in his $10 million penthouse?

Jan

Anonymous said...

Esther Reed's story was featured on CBS's 48 HOURS MYSTERY: "Catch Her If You Can," on Saturday, May 9.

BTW 48 Hours did say she went to Harvard's Extention School and later to Columbia's School of General Studies (for nontraditional students).

Esther did not simply use Brooke's name. She illegally obtained and used her social security number and illegally obtained and used an official copy of her birth certificate. She then used those illegal documents to illegally obtain student loans, credit cards, and a US passport. That's hardly the same as picking a name out of the air that happens to be the same as the name of a missing person.

And she did steal. The reason she had to change her name from Natalie Fisher to Natalie Bowman when she applied to Fullerton was that she had been using the real Natalie Fisher's name and social security number for a driver's license and credit, and the real Natalie was was getting collection calls for bills she knew nothing about.

From the 48 Hours show: "Forced to live by her wits, Esther needed a way to make money any way she could. She perfectly forged J.C. Penney receipts and used them to return items for more than they were worth, pocketing tens of thousands of dollars."

She refused to detail her scams for the authorities, and her current plea bargain does not extend to any future charges they can prove against her.

Jennifer said...

FYI: She is neither Chinese or Native American. Both parents American.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer: FYI: She is neither Chinese or Native American. Both parents American.

So, I suppose Chinese people cannot be American? Or Native Americans are not American? Sorry, I had to call out the ridiculousness of statements like that. What you might have said is that both parents are caucasian - which doesn't mean much. If you took a DNA sample of many Anglo-Americans, you'd find evidence of intermingling with Native peoples or African slaves.

Anonymous said...

I know what she did was wrong... I know she fraudulently obtained loans and took money etc. But a small part of me just wants to say, you go girl! I think the reason she had so many law enforcement folks riled up was because she was a little girl who outsmarted them for a long, long, long time. It really had nothing to do with "what" she actually did, but more because she did it so well.

Anonymous said...

I watched this segment with a great deal of interest. Here is a young woman that has talent beyond belief, with moxy, savie, and good looks. One of those people you really really want to know, but not so sure you would trust. Did she steal? yes. Is she guilty? Yes. Is she genuine? Who knows? I think she would be an interesting part of my "dinner with 4 interesting people"...

pt

Anonymous said...

Why is it that people feel the need to defend what they really know nothing about. I am one of Esthers older sisters and she was not adopted. We were a poor family with alot of love. Esther made some poor choices, hence, that is why she is in prison. None of the rest of us are in prison, so you figure it out. Also, as for sibling abuse, better check the age difference and know she grew up with only one of her siblings.

Anonymous said...

i think she is brilliant!!! and i hope she gets out of prison sooner than later and find God if she hasnt already

AngryFemale said...

So ..what? A heartless cold person can see some young woman went missing and use her name and that's glorious? "Go girl!"?? Brooke was a real person who has NEVER been found, so not proven dead.. what if she came back like Jaycee to the pile of debts and god knows what left by this vulture? What she did was steal from an injured family.. made them feel hope, agony, and relive loss more intensely than they already were. I think she should be in jail a LONG time for ALL of the identities she had stolen, I hope those who have bills due because of her make her pay and keep her in jail as long as possible. Since when is criminal genius to be lauded? You probably would have given Jesse James a fresh horse and a hot meal and sent him on his way to more murder and theft.. You folks who defend this woman need to revisit ethics 101.. Esther probably passed the class, so never mind.

brazmus said...

i wish the law enforcement agencies would direct the resources they expended on her petty thievery towards combating violent criminals. There are so many dangerous people and organizations that pose a considerably greater threat to the security and safety of Americans than little miss Esther Reed. She can always repay what she took. But the crimes that cannot be repaid are the crimes I want law enforcement to prevent or pursue.

Machete Moonlight said...

Last time I checked credit card & check fraud (which was the LEAST she was guilty of)and Identity theft were crimes, evading arrest, also crimes... 4 years is pretty light if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

I had to stop reading comments... many were posted by 12 year old morons... she broke the law & stole from MANY people. Read or listen to the FACTS (BEFORE YOU POST) ignorant comments!

Anonymous said...

She is a liar, thief, and cheat. Stealing others peoples money and indentities is not noble. Whether man or woman does not matter. We have some ignorant people in this country. If someone stole your identity i'm sure any of you who cheer this scamp would be none to pleased. She will face additional charges upon release and always be a convicted felon with no room for error.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who is cheering this psychopath on is an IDIOT and the person who wrote this blog is an IDIOT. This is a monster without conscience.....i.e. psychopath. Open your eyes people.

Jan said...

Anon on July 9, 2011: At the least since you are accusing me of being a psychopath and a monster you could have the guts to use your own name in making your post. But since you didn't, in my book you're just another silly person. Obviously there is a grave difference in public opinion as judged by the posts at this obscure blog. Esther did not kill anyone, she did not beat anyone, she did not abuse any children. She did not steal money from the elderly or the poor. She did not marry several men in several different cities and countries to intentionally use them for their money. Esther used other people's names. Yes - how many millions of illegal immigrants are doing that, including using their social security numbers - and no one says or does anything about that?

I'm not condoning the crimes Esther committed but, really, in the big scheme of things - compared to say, what the Wall Street Boys did the U.S. economy and the millions of lives' savings and homes (through foreclosure) they wiped out in main stream America, this is chicken feed. I am very sorry for Brooke's family, but do not conflate their pain to Esther, who had nothing to do with Brooke's disappearance. It's interesting that the authorities would choose to prosecute Esther when every day millions of people are being duped out of money by phishing and other schemes on the internet - and when do you ever read of any of THOSE people being hunted down and prosecuted? Keep things in some perspective.

Jan said...

I'm sorry. I accidentally deleted a comment made earlier today before it got published, and I can't retrieve it.

Jan

Dan said...

I am an esther reed fan, but student load fraud is a pretty serious offense and if you don't see what's wrong with opening up credit cards in other peoples names then you don't understand the law very well. Either way I'm looking forward to her release in a few weeks to see what she does. Hopefully she makes herself available to the general public.

Jennifer Leible said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dan said...

According to the federal prisons website, she is in Seattle right now on pre release and her release is 10/14/2011

Jennifer Leible said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

esther reed is portland oregon working and living in a halfway house - check it out to see where she is working and the kind of work she is doing - the girl is smart - maybe she is no longer into identity theft

Jan said...

Ms. Reed has paid her debt to society. I wish her well.

Anonymous said...

I don't think she did anything that bad to be sent to prison four 51 months. I always felt like I was different from every one in my family thats why I don't talk to them but I know child molesters get less time than she did and I hope that if your really are her family that you won't judge her for her diffrences.

Anonymous said...

Esther Reed is a very smart young lady that could do things in her own right, for whatever reason, she is unable to own her own identity. Yes she did commit crimes, all non violent, and I agree that this is really insignificant in the scheme of what crimes happen and are not prosecuted.
I find the story very intriguing. There is clearly more to her psychological make up that what has been reported, otherwise, she would be serving much more time.
I hope she pulls it together when she gets out and uses her incredible mind for the good of society.

Anonymous said...

whats with the people saying she did nothing wrong? How stupid can you be wake up, jesus.

Anonymous said...

Jan you're a disgrace.

Jan said...

Anonymous at 12:49 a.m., why am I disgrace? You disagree with me and that's your right. I also have a right to express my thoughts and opinions on Esther Reed - and anyone and anything else I want to. I didn't delete your comment, because I think it is silly, useless and childish to hide behind an anonymous tag while you call me names. I hope it made you feel better about yourself after being so brave.

Anonymous said...

For those who think that Esther Reed didn't hurt anyone are not victims of identity theft. Not to mention all of the money she stole in student loans - which are co-funded by the US government. So the in essence she stole from you -since the income taxes you pay are covering the losses.

Jan said...

I haven't been a victim of identity theft, that's right. As for "stealing" student loans, what about doctors and lawyers who default on their loans while making hundreds of thousand of dollars a year? Until the bankruptcy law was changed, they used to be able to discharge their student loan debt after making "payments" for 6 years, regardless of their payment record. Don't moan to me about stealing student loan money. I got $15,000 of student loans to go to law school between 1981-1984 and I paid back every cent over 10 years, despite not practicing law and making a bundle of money. That being said, I wasn't in Esther Reed's shoes. She did her time for doing the crime, so lighten up.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear that this girl has a parent that is different than that of her siblings. She doesn't look anything like her siblings. She is a friendly thief. She is where she belongs. Just because someone commits crime with a smile doesn't mean we should feel sorry for her. That's part of the con.

Amy said...

I actually know Esther. In fact, I was her "bunkie" in Alderson from August 2009 until my release at the end of Jan. 2010. She is a sister to me, we shared a common bond that few people will ever really understand. She is not Asian or American Indian she is Caucasian and born and raised in the US, nor is she a criminal mastermind or some terror out to steal an identity. What she did, anyone can do...they just have to be desperate enough and ballsy enough to try.

What most people know about Esther is what the 48 Hours or other crime shows wanted to show you for ratings. Did you know that Esther only agreed to participate in the 48 Hours interview as a form of payment to her lawyer. And because of that show she became infamous and even while on probation is still having to obey some seriously over the top, extraordinary rules that are not consistent and rare to only her case. (my opinion, they are setting her up for failure)

Anonymous said...

lol..give me a break top ten most wanted..bookworm with a fake id stealing student loans for education and debate club funding...oh shhhhhhhh iiittt.. Come on..4 years..? Scumbag white collar criminals that steal millions and leave family's broke get 10 months at a country club golf course prison...men with kiddie porn on their computers get probation. If you street race and accidentally hit a bystander it's manslaughter and you get out in 3 years with good behaviour. I know somone who that happened to. So 4 years for her is plenty. I still can't believe the Marshal's were hot on her trail. Give me a break, find some violent asshole. Not this weirdo personality disroder Identity stealer..if there was a like button ppl would be on this one..ughhh...lol. life.

sbsalois40 said...

I just watched a re-run of 48 hours this morning. For some reason Esthers story really interested me. I have been reading comments and stories since. To be honest. I can relate to a lot of what she said on 48hrs. I would like to hear more about her.

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