Ex-Social Worker, 32, Pretended to Be a Boston High School Student, Police Say

Ex-Social Worker, 32, Pretended to Be a Boston High School Student, Police Say

At English High School, she went by Ellie. At Jeremiah E. Burke High School, she introduced herself as Daniella.

But the authorities have now learned that Ellie and Daniella were the aliases for Shelby Hewitt, a 32-year-old former state social worker who they say posed as a high school student at three Boston public schools — where she gossiped with teenagers during lunch and complained about homework.

On Tuesday, she was charged with three counts of forgery of documents, two counts of false writing and one count of identity fraud in West Roxbury Division Boston Municipal Court, records show.

Ms. Hewit — who enrolled under different aliases in the 2022-2023 school year at English, Jeremiah E. Burke, and Brighton High schools by forging paperwork — had not been arrested as of Thursday, according to the Boston Police Department, which declined to answer questions about the case.

Ms. Hewitt intermittently worked as a social worker at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families from 2016 until February 2023, the department said. The department did not say why Ms. Hewitt was no longer employed. She could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday and it was unclear if she had a lawyer.

Mary Skipper, the Boston Public School superintendent, told parents about the identity fraud case in a note on June 20, saying that Ms. Hewitt had been ordered to stay away from Boston Public School facilities.

“While the investigation is in its early stages and remains ongoing, school officials have not identified any incidents of harm to students or staff,” Ms. Skipper wrote. “At this time families of students who may have interacted with this individual are being contacted directly by school staff and investigators.”

Ms. Skipper later said in a statement that she was “deeply troubled” by the situation, calling it an “extremely sophisticated fraud.”

The case troubled parents in the district and confused students who had come to know Ms. Hewitt under different names and backgrounds. It is unclear what may have been Ms. Hewitt’s motive to infiltrate several schools.

Janell Lamons, 15, said in an interview that she met Ms. Hewitt last September at Jeremiah E. Burke High School, where the two would eat lunch together at the library. Ms. Hewitt, who claimed to be 16 years old, told Janell that her name was Daniella, that she was from Colombia and that she was in foster care.

Janell said that while Ms. Hewitt appeared to be somewhat normal as they talked about teachers and homework, she still noticed strange behavior. Once, she said, Ms. Hewitt brought a trash bag full of clothes to school and claimed that she was going to a new foster home. Sometimes Ms. Hewitt would “get very emotional” after teachers told her to focus in class and do her work, Janell said.

“She would sometimes walk out of class and wander around in the hallways,” Janell said, adding that she occasionally saw Ms. Hewitt crying at school.

School administrators took a closer look at her enrollment documents after a man posing as her father said he would be withdrawing her because of bullying, the police report said.

They noticed that one of the enrollment forms inaccurately referred to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families as the “Department of Children rind Families,” and also included other errors. That prompted them to call and ask for the social worker listed on the form.

The school was told by the department that no one by that name worked there, the police report states, prompting school officials to contact the police.

The authorities executed a search warrant at Ms. Hewitt’s apartment on June 15 and found forged documents, the police report states.

Mayor Michelle Wu said on WBUR’s Radio Boston that the case was “extremely disturbing.”

“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,” Ms. Wu said.

Ms. Hewitt is not the first to face charges related to impersonating a teenager. In March, the authorities said a 29-year-old woman had been pretending to be a teenager at New Brunswick High in New Jersey, in a case that captured the attention of millions of people online. In the early 2000s, Frédéric Bourdin serially impersonated children in youth shelters, junior high schools and orphanages throughout Europe, The New Yorker reported.

Kirsten Noyes contributed research.

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