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Identity Thief May Have Been Accepted to Harvard

By Alexandra Hiatt, Crimson Staff Writer

A woman who made headlines because she attended a Columbia University graduate school under a stolen identity is also believed to have been accepted to Harvard under a name not her own, allegedly using the identity of a 1999 College graduate.

The con artist was identified as Esther E. Reed, 28. She attended Columbia University under the identity of Brooke Henson, a South Carolinian who has been reported missing since 1991, according to a New York Post article published on Monday.

Little information is known about Reed, but Post reporter Lukas I. Alpert, who wrote the article, told The Crimson in an e-mail that Reed attended Harvard for “a very short period of time sometime before 2005 and after 2002” and “maybe just for a couple of classes.”

Reed’s scheme was discovered this past summer after attempting to get a housekeeping job as Henson, the Post also reported.

Reed herself has been listed as a missing person since 1999. According to the article, Reed was last seen leaving a Seattle courthouse, where she had been charged with forging checks.

Detectives found an ID card in Reed’s former apartment, which had the name of Natalie M. Bowman ’99, according to the Associated Press. The real Bowman was a former chemistry concentrator from Kirkland House who now attends Columbia Medical School.

According to the Post, Reed used this identity to attend both Harvard and California State University at Fullerton.

The real Bowman, however, is less sure that Reed actually attended Harvard.

“I don’t know if [Reed] ever attended Harvard or if it was just a confusion because I took an extension school class [after graduating],” said Bowman.

She said that she first learned about the identity theft this fall from Columbia University officials, who contacted her after the ID card was found.

Bowman said that she then checked her credit reports, which showed no sign of suspicious activity, and ordered a transcript from Harvard, which did not list any classes that she had not taken.

Bowman said that she has never met Reed, and does not know any information about the suspected identity thief.

“It could just be more a weird coincidence than anything,” she said.

Marlyn McGrath Lewis ’70-’73, director of admissions at Harvard College, declined to comment for this article, citing student privacy concerns.

Jon Campbell, an investigator from South Carolina who has been following Reed’s disappearance, and Robert Mitchell, director of communications for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, could not be reached for comment.

—Staff writer Alexandra Hiatt can be reached at ahiatt@fas.harvard.edu.

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