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Police: Identity thief who conned way into Ivy League arrested

  • Story Highlights
  • Police: Esther Reed went missing the same time that Brooke Henson did
  • Reed assumed Henson's identity, took SAT and GED in her name, police say
  • Police believe Henson was killed but say Reed was not involved
  • Columbia University and Harvard confirmed that a Brooke Hanson was enrolled
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(CNN) -- A high school dropout who stole the identity of a missing South Carolina woman and used it to gain admission to two Ivy League colleges has been arrested, police said Sunday.


Esther Reed, who allegedly used a missing woman's ID to get into colleges, was arrested by U.S. Marshals.

A fugitive for more than a year, Esther Reed was arrested Saturday by U.S. Marshals in suburban Chicago, said Clark Brazier, a spokesman for the police department in Traveler's Rest, South Carolina.

Reed is scheduled to have a bond hearing this week in Illinois. South Carolina authorities are seeking to extradite her on charges of aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.

Reed assumed the identity of Brooke Henson, who was 20 years old when she disappeared more than eight years ago from Travelers Rest, investigators say.

It's unclear how Reed obtained Henson's personal information, but Reed used Henson's identity to take the SAT and GED, and then applied to the schools, said Jon Campbell, a Travelers Rest Police Department investigator who spoke to CNN last year.

Officials at Harvard University and Columbia University have acknowledged that a Brooke Henson was enrolled at their schools, but said privacy laws prevent them from discussing details.

"There's a little relief that goes with [the news of Reed's arrest]," Brooke's aunt Lisa Henson told CNN Sunday. "But [Brooke] is still missing. I'd like to have some answers. I would love to see [Reed] and look her in the eye and say, 'You're a horrible person.' "

Police say they're confident Reed was not involved in Henson's disappearance.

Authorities believe Henson was killed by someone who knew her. However, no body has been found and no arrests have been made.

Henson's family had heard nothing about their missing relative for years until the summer of 2006, when New York City authorities told police in Travelers Rest that they had found her, alive and well, in Manhattan.

The police relayed that message to Henson's family. "I was jumping for joy," said Lisa Henson. "It was incredible."

But the family's joy was short-lived when it was revealed that the woman found was actually Reed.

An ex-boyfriend told CNN that Reed -- posing as Henson -- often bragged about being a world-class chess player who earned a living playing the game competitively.

The man told CNN that he believed her until he challenged her to a game and beat her.

Originally from the tiny town of Townsend, Montana, Reed had been reported missing by her family in 1999, around the same time that Henson disappeared.

In high school in Montana, Reed earned poor grades.

"Esther was the kind of kid who would have been invisible," her English teacher James Therriault said. "If you didn't take pains to notice her presence." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Gary Tuchman and Ashley Fantz contributed to this report.

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