A woman accused of using a missing person's identity to get into an Ivy League school made her first court appearance Monday, and the victim's relatives said they just want the theft suspect punished.
When Esther Elizabeth Reed was indicted last year, Brooke Henson's relatives said they hoped Reed could tell authorities where to find her.
"Of course at first, it was just giving us hope that Brooke was alive," Lisa Henson, Brooke's aunt, said Monday.
Investigators have since said they don't think Reed had anything to do with Henson's 1999 disappearance.
Reed is accused of stealing Henson's identity in 2003 and posing as her to obtain false identification documents, take a high school equivalency test and get into Columbia University.
She was indicted last year and made her first court appearance Monday on federal charges of identity theft, mail and wire fraud and obtaining false identification documents. If convicted on all four charges, Reed faces a possible $1 million fine and 47 years in prison, time Lisa Henson said she hopes Reed will serve.
"I just hope that she never gets to see the light of day again," she said.
Reed answered routine questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge William M. Catoe and showed no emotion during the brief proceedings. Catoe entered a not guilty plea to all charges.
Reed, who was arrested Feb. 3 outside Chicago, is 29; Brooke Henson would be 29 in April.
Reed began posing as Henson in October 2003, obtaining an ID card in Ohio using her name, date of birth and Social Security number, Assistant U.S. Attorney Walt Wilkins said.
Two months later, Reed took a high school equivalency test in Ohio using Henson's name and received a degree, Wilkins said. Again using Henson's information, she took a college entrance exam in California in May 2004, using her score to apply for admission to Columbia, the prosecutor said.
Reed attended the New York school for two years, beginning in August 2004, Wilkins said. She then applied for and received student loans in Henson's name, in amounts investigators have said exceeded $100,000.
Reed then applied to the state of South Carolina for a duplicate copy of Henson's birth certificate, which she received at an address in Massachusetts. In 2006, Reed also applied for a U.S. passport in Henson's name, Wilkins said.
Investigators have said Reed stole multiple people's identities and also was admitted to Harvard and California State University, Fullerton, though she has not been charged in those cases and Wilkins did not discuss them Monday.
Assistant Federal Defender Lora Collins, who was appointed Monday to represent Reed but did not appear with her in court, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
A message left at Columbia University's public affairs office after business hours Monday was not immediately returned.