Tall Tales from the Tall Towers

Filed under: Fraud and Deception

Submitted by Mike Ibanez: What about Tania Head (née Alicia Esteve), the Catalan girl who conned New York?

From Wikipedia:

27survivorxlarge1-200.jpgTania Head was the president and director of the World Trade Center Survivors’ Network, which she co-founded with Gerry Bogacz, until the last week of September 2007, when her claims became doubted and the organization dismissed her. The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported that Head is from Barcelona and that her real name is Alicia Esteve Head.

Claims as 9/11 victim

Head claimed that she was on the 78th floor of the South Tower (WTC 2) when United Airlines Flight 175 hit the floor where she stood. This would have made her one of only 19 people at or above the point of impact to have survived. She said that a man by the name of Dave, who perished in the North Tower (WTC 1), was her fiance or husband. She also claimed to have been given a dying man’s wedding ring and to have returned it to his widow, and to have been rescued herself by a deceased man known to have rescued others.

Head regularly recounted her claims to Ground Zero tour groups in vivid detail, saying, “I was there at the towers. I’m a survivor. I’m going to tell you about that.”

Volunteer work as representative victim

Head led tours for the Tribute W.T.C. Visitor Center for visitors including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former New York Governor George Pataki. She also made many speeches at colleges and with support groups, recounting her story as a victim of the 9/11 attacks.

Head indicated that these activities were unpaid volunteer efforts on her part. She was presented in retrospective articles on World Trade Center aspect of 9/11 as representative of all of the 20,000 surviving New Yorker victims who escaped the damaged buildings.

Claims disputed

In late September 2007 The New York Times was unable to verify key details of her story, one of which, her engagement to a man named “Dave”, was contradicted by family and friends, whose identities are being withheld to protect their privacy. Additionally, Janice Cilento, a social worker who is on the board of the Survivors”™ Network and close to Head, said she had made changes to her account of events in recent weeks. Head also claimed a degree from Harvard University and a graduate business degree from Stanford University, which the institutions deny.

The company where she said she worked at the World Trade Center, Merrill Lynch, said it has no record of her being employed there.

La Vanguardia account of Head’s life and 9/11 whereabouts

La Vanguardia, a daily newspaper in Barcelona, published an account detailing Head’s education, career and her whereabouts on September 11, 2001. Basing its story on interviews with Head’s former fellow students and colleagues, the paper reported that just a week after the attack in which she said she had been critically injured, Head attended classes in a Barcelona MBA program. La Vanguardia added that Head attended classes in the program through June 2002 and told classmates she wanted to work in New York. Head, whom the paper said was born July 31, 1973, had earlier attended the University of Barcelona and worked for a local entertainment promoter and for Hovisa, a Spanish hotel company.

Photo: Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer