Adult woman who posed as Boston high school student charged with fraud, document forgery

Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Dorchester. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

An adult woman who allegedly used false identification and paperwork to enroll as a student in three separate Boston high schools this academic year has been charged with document forgery and identity fraud, according to a copy of the criminal complaint obtained by WBUR.

The suspect is identified as Shelby Hewitt, 32, of Canton. A warrant for Hewitt's arrest is requested in the application for criminal complaint filed Tuesday. As of Wednesday afternoon, no arrest had been made, according to a Boston Police sergeant.

The criminal complaint, filed in the West Roxbury division of Boston Municipal Court, comes a week after Boston school superintendent Mary Skipper notified families by letter that an adult woman had falsely registered as a student at three schools during various points in the 2022-2023 school year.

Hewitt attended Jeremiah Burke High School, Brighton High School and English High School, “utilizing the student transfer process and enrolling under multiple pseudonyms,” Skipper said.

The complaint offered no motive for Hewitt’s actions. Max Baker, a spokesman for Boston Public Schools, said Wednesday the district is “not commenting further.”

Hewitt worked as a social worker at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families up until February, a DCF spokeswoman said last week. She was first employed by the agency in 2016.

At a Boston school committee meeting last week, Skipper said any additional updates would be provided “if relevant information becomes available.” Her letter to families assured that school staff had not “identified any incidents of harm to students or staff” as the result of Hewitt’s actions.

“I’m deeply troubled that an adult would breach the trust of our school communities by posing as a student,” the superintendent told school committee members at a June 21 meeting. She commended BPS school staff for flagging the case to police as soon as they “identified irregularities with the student’s enrollment.”

“With any major incident we will continue to review all of our systems and processes to make sure that what we did was correct,” Skipper said.

According to the complaint, detectives executed a search warrant at an apartment in Jamaica Plain on June 15, the day after police were summoned to English High, the school Hewitt most recently attended and where irregularities in her enrollment paperwork were first noticed.

During their search of the residence, police found several documents that consisted of “falsely made, altered, or forged” documents from Lowell Juvenile Court and the Department of Children and Families, according to the complaint. Hewitt apparently used two aliases to gain entry into the school system, the initials for which were “DBH” and “EAH.”

An individual interviewed at Lowell Juvenile Court told detectives she did not know Hewitt and had not given her permission to use her name on a forged document, the complaint states. It's not clear how this person is connected to the court system.

Hewitt also allegedly falsified DCF paperwork to represent that “DBH” and “EAH” were in DCF custody status. The documents were signed using the name of a non-existent DCF employee, according to the complaint. Hewitt allegedly used these documents to help enroll her in Boston Public Schools.

At English High, Hewitt apparently went by the name “Ellie Alessandra Blake,” according to the complaint. Head of school Caitlyn Murphy could not be reached for comment.

A DCF spokeswoman said Wednesday the agency is “working in collaboration with the District Attorney’s office in this matter” but declined to comment beyond that.

The case has made national headlines and led to speculation as to Hewitt’s reason for impersonating a high school student. Students at the Jeremiah Burke shared with the Boston Globe some odd behaviors and remarks made by Hewitt during the time she was there.

“It’s extremely disturbing,” Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Monday on WBUR’s Radio Boston. “If someone told me that an adult, many decades removed from being in some of these age-appropriate settings was back in school, it’s concerning.”

Amilcar Silva, the head of school at the Burke — where Hewitt enrolled in September — declined to comment, citing the police investigation.

In the initial redacted incident report, a box for “human trafficking” was checked off but no further detail was provided. The Boston Police Human Trafficking Unit, Boston Police Internet Crimes Against Children Unit and Massachusetts State Police High-Risk Victims Unit all took part in the June 15 search of the Jamaica Plain residence, according to the complaint.

In addition to Hewitt, two other individuals are named in the complaint: John A. Smith and Rebecca L. Bernat, both 48, of Jamaica Plain. They were apparently both involved in efforts to withdraw Hewitt from English High, saying she was bullied. That initially set off school administrators’ suspicions and further digging into Hewitt’s enrollment paperwork, leading to the police investigation.

It was not clear as of Wednesday whether Hewitt is represented by an attorney.


Suevon Lee Assistant Managing Editor, Education
Suevon Lee leads WBUR's education coverage.



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