back to article Iowa sysadmin pleads guilty to 33-year identity theft of former coworker

An Iowa system administrator has pleaded guilty to charges related to stealing and assuming a former coworker's identity over a 33-year period. According to court documents, Matthew David Keirans, 58, also maliciously worked with authorities, supplying them with forged documents that would ultimately see his victim jailed and …

  1. usbac Silver badge

    "Keirans now faces a potential maximum sentence of 32 years in prison, with a minimum of two years. He'll also have to pay a $1.25 million fine, and serve five years of supervised release after his sentence."

    I would hope Keirans also owes the real Mr. Woods a HUGE restitution payment!

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      I would think & hope there are a number of agencies Mr Woods should be taking action against, beyond Keirans.

      The banks, the police departments, courts & hospitals for starters.

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        I'm sure there will likely be some kind of lawsuit against California for false imprisonment or some such. The bank was doing exactly what we want them to do if someone walks in claiming to be someone and can't adequately prove it: call the cops. If I walked into a bank pretending to be you, I'm sure you'd want the bank to call the cops to come arrest me.

        The one kind of wrinkle in a lot of this, is the scammer got married and had a kid, otherwise I'd say that any monies he earned using the fake name should be clawed back and given over to the victim, but I'm at least assuming the wife and child were unaware of what was going on, so punishing them (more than they already have been just by being associated with the guy) seems a bit unfair. The wife can divorce him and start using her maiden name again, but the kid can't just cut out half of their genetics.

        1. ChoHag Silver badge

          > but the kid can't just cut out half of their genetics.

          It wouldn't be the first.

        2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          In the circumstances I'd have hoped that someone would latch onto this being a bit different from the normal run of things and needed a bit more investigation before the Iowan bank. At least kudos to them being on the alert.

        3. Mike Friedman

          The bank didn't believe real documents presented to them. Including his Social Security card and number.

          As for the family. I feel bad for them, but all of his property should be forfeited to make the victim whole. I saw this happen when I was a kid. The father of a classmate was arrested and sent to prison for embezzling from the bank he was CEO of. The kids took it hard. I felt bad for them, since they lost everything.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            The social security card isn't as obviously acceptable as you say:

            The card on which an SSN is issued is still not suitable for primary identification as it has no photograph, no physical description, and no birth date. All it does is confirm that a particular number has been issued to a particular name. Instead, a driver's license or state ID card is used as an identification for adults.

            Nothing associates a card with its true owner. He did also have an ID with a picture, but of a type that can be faked or obtained fraudulently (by providing documents without pictures). The other person using the same name almost certainly also had an ID card with the same information and his picture on it. So they can't assume that someone with a card with the correct SSN and an ID with the person's picture mean the presenter controls this account. If you're the only person presenting them, they'll probably accept them. If you're presenting them while someone else, also with documents, says you're lying, they'll either require more or bring in the police to determine which of you is the true one, since law enforcement can validate documents with more accuracy than can a bank.

            1. Orv Silver badge

              Yes, unfortunately the Social Security card is not a secure document. Mine is a piece of cardboard punched out from a perforated sheet that someone typed a number and name on back in 1977. It would be trivial to forge.

            2. martinusher Silver badge

              Its printed on the card that "Its not valid for identification". Doesn't stop people from demanding to see it, for example when applying for a "real ID" endorsement to a driver's licence.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          ... If I walked into a bank pretending to be you ...

          Did you miss it? The bank got the owner of the name wrong. It perfectly possible that someone could open an account in your name with the greater goal of defrauding you.

      2. starfurries

        Matthew keirans is in jail where he belongs. And your right. You can see me on FouseyTube on YouTube. I was on FouseyTube in the year 2015. On FouseyTube look up: you won't believe this. Thanks.

    2. b1k3rdude

      most of that $1.25M should be given to the victum I would hope.

      1. Caffeinated Sponge

        It certainly should, but unless I'm misreading there's a huge stack of credit in false name here. Unless that's being claimed separately, I have a feeling it's going to get first dibs on the money.

        Absolutely though, person rendered unemployable, imprisoned and medicated as a mental patient due to fraudster really should be getting a good chunk out of this.

        Apart from the prior courts and LEOs, there are also huge questions over US metal patient Inpatients I'd say - treating a person as insane and medicating for psychosis because a judge who didn't spot identity theft in progress says much. Essentially the real Woods was discriminated against because the fraudster seemed like a nice, professional person. That's something we should all reflect on.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re the money

          Re the false credit, if the bank loans can be shown to have been provided without due care and investigation, they might have a little hiccough in getting their money back.

          But really I can only feel very sad for the real Mr Woods, I just hope he gets a serious amount of money for the book, TV and film rights (not a joke, this is perfect for Hollywood). Receiving psychiatric treatment for a disease you do not have must be truly awful, as must be imprisonment for something you didn't do. (I wonder whether the judge will apologise.)

      2. JavaJester

        The victim should get everything

        I mean everything. As in when the impostor dies his organs and what's left of is body should be put up to auction with the proceeds to go to the victim.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: The victim should get everything

          There are multiple victims, including the wife and children.

    3. Wzrd1 Silver badge

      Restitution, OK, via vivisection.

      ID theft, OK, ya got me, screw me, get hanged, drawn and quartered and consider it merciful.

      I freely admit to a character flaw, I am a very, very, very vindictive man, who terrorists feared due to that vindictiveness.

      I'm otherwise a really nice guy, who strangers trust to babysit.

      But, there's that narrow crossing where things go cross, as narrow as the Río de la Plata, Then, you'll get to enjoy a meal of your own offal.

      Can't figure out why people fear my anger at all...

  2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Assuming he could have performed the Sysadmin gig under his own name it sounds like the only reason for this is just plain nastiness. He deserves to serve every one of those 32 years and whatever he has should go to compensating the victim rather than paying a fine. It sounds as if all those other places that didn't investigate properly should also owe Woods.

    1. keithpeter Silver badge

      Yes, I'm a little confused as to motives. The real Mr K did obtain money and cars through this deception. Perhaps it sort of started small and then became harder and harder to stop if you see what I mean.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Perhaps it sort of started small and then became harder and harder to stop

        I would think once he met someone he wanted to marry under the assumed name he was kind of forced to go all-in as "Woods" at that point. Be kind of hard to get her to marry you if you say "oh, the name I told you when we met, I was lying".

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Perhaps she was the clerk from the bank he used for Woods account back in the early 90s, or the salesperson from whom he purchased cars…

          1. DS999 Silver badge

            If he was using the other guy's name he would have to use that name with a girlfriend from day one. He'd be known by that name by co workers, he'd have rented his apartment under that name so his neighbors would call him that and it would be on his bank card and bills coming to his house.

            Once you're banking under an alternate name you're pretty much all-in.

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Be kind of hard to get her to marry you if you say "oh, the name I told you when we met, I was lying".

          Probably true. It's still wildly fucked up, of course; but it's often the case that someone who maintains a lie for a prolonged period eventually comes to feel there's no way out of it. The mind has to cope with the stress of maintaining that deception, and convincing yourself that you have no choice is one way to do so. Kierans damaged many people, probably including himself, in this decades-long charade.

          The whole thing is really quite awful, for Woods and for Kierans' family. (I note the article doesn't say whether he was still married when he was found out, but it'd be pretty terrible for his (former or current) spouse and child in either case.)

      2. Orv Silver badge

        I'm wondering if he wasn't a legal resident, or had something that made him unable to pass a background check. That's the only thing I can think of.

  3. aerogems Silver badge

    One can only hope the credit score for the real Woods will be wiped clean, though something tells me it won't. That fine should also go to the victim in this case. A million dollars would be enough for just about anyone to turn their life around, but if you're homeless it'd be enough to buy a modest house* or get an apartment so you have a stable address, a car to get to/from work with, and a wardrobe for interviews, with quite a bit left over.

    Also, out of random curiosity, for all those who don't believe in divorce for religious reasons... if you marry someone who is using an assumed identity, does it still count? You agreed to marry someone named "Woods" not "Keirans" so are the vows still considered valid?

    * Assuming you're not buying it in a place like California

    1. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

      Regarding marrying under a false name, pretty sure that’s illegal just about everywhere. More jail time …..

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Which maked the child a basterd along with the father.

        1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

          I'm going to think there's a certain irony between that last post & posters name.

      2. aerogems Silver badge

        That may well be, but I am curious about it from a theological perspective. Does 'til death do us part still apply when the person you married was using an assumed identity? It's not a gotcha question for any who may be hesitant to answer, it's a genuine question born of genuine curiosity. No hidden agendas, no Monty Python style Spanish Inquisition is waiting to jump out at you, it's just an odd thought that popped into my head while making that first comment.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          I can pretty much guarantee that nobody knows. If you ask enough people, you will get every possible answer. Each of those answers can be backed by some kind of reference to religious text if you want. People with one view who strongly object to the other view will say that the other guy's reference is misinterpreted, assuming you get them to make an argument instead of just shouting.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            It might still be interesting to know what various authorities have proclaimed about this sort of case over the years, if only as a matter of cultural history.

            According to one source, the Roman Catholic Church may annul a marriage even if there are children and even if the respondent doesn't agree to it. Of course a church annulment deals only with the Church's view of the marriage — it has no civil force. But potentially in a case like this one, the Church tribunal could agree to annul the marriage, which means that as far as the Church is concerned, there was never a sacrament of marriage, whatever civil arrangement may exist or have existed.

            For the Roman Catholic Church, divorce is a purely civil matter they take no stand on. The Church says that if you get married in whatever fashion, you're married unless and until your spouse dies or the marriage is annulled. Whether you get divorced is irrelevant to them.

            So going back to the OP's question: At least one fairly prominent religious authority doesn't give a rat's whether you get divorced. What they're interested in is annulment, and in a case like this it seems likely the tribunal would at least consider the offended spouse's petition.

            Also note this would not change the legitimacy of any children of the marriage, in the Church's view, contra at least one post upthread. (Nor would it have any civil effect on legitimacy, unless the controlling civil authority for some reason 1) had a legal concept of legitimate birth, and 2) tied it to the sacrament of marriage for some reason.)

        2. Grogan Silver badge

          No, because "until death do us part" is no longer adhered to anyway, it's symbolic and was written by men, not gods. It really means "until one of us decides to get this legal arrangement nullified". Moreover, marriage can be simply ignored, provided neither party enters into legal marriage contracts again. Child custody, child support issues aside of course.

          My answer on any biblical or moral aspects of it is: I don't care. It's up to the individuals how they think of their marriage. Kids are really the only thing that matters to me, if I'm to be judgemental.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            This is why I assume they're asking a religious question, not a legal one. The legal answer in many countries is that the marriage can be dissolved. Whether it happens automatically, requires an annulment form, or if you actually have to go through the divorce process probably varies from place to place, but the union does not need to continue. I think they are asking based on religious authorities that do not acknowledge a divorce as legitimate, and there are a lot of them who do everything differently and their reasons for what counts and what doesn't are based on subjective interpretations of religious texts, so I don't think you'll find consensus between their opinions.

            1. Grogan Silver badge

              Yeah well, churches allow divorce too and allow people to remarry. It's not "until death do us part" anymore. The point is the same.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I can certainly see an argument that the person living under someone else's name has not been faithful to their spouse - not sleeping around (presumably), but being very dishonest from the start. Marital unfaithfulness is the one Biblical grounds for divorce. At the very least, permanent separation would be fine. (Remarrying to someone honest might be debatable.)

        4. Grinning Bandicoot

          It is strange what thoughts that sometimes follow. The question reminded me of the Hitchcock program where the nice little ol' lady meets the obliging ol' gent. Each presenting the other's ideal image. The final is two insurance adjusters explaining that both had a long string of spouses dying on the honeymoon.

      3. Kibble 2

        False Names on Official Documents

        IANAL,but I believe most US states if not all, require documentation prior to marriage between individuals. Some even require medical blood tests as part of issuing a marriage license. Making false statements on official documents is generally considered a crime most places. not just in the US.

        1. MrBanana

          Re: False Names on Official Documents

          I know in the UK that the vows you make "in the eyes of God" are meaningless in law. You get married when you sign the wedding certificate, possibly only fully legally when it is lodged at the registrar's office. Using a false name on the certificate would invalidate it as a legal instrument. So the marriage would be void.

          1. DJO Silver badge

            Re: False Names on Official Documents

            So all those undercover coppers who "married" people in the groups they were spying on broke the law. Quelle surprise.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: False Names on Official Documents

            Based on the signed marriage contract there's a mrs. woods out there.

            The real woods would definitely be an upgrade on that piece of shit, and she wouldn't even have to change her name...

    2. david 12 Silver badge

      Also, out of random curiosity, for all those who don't believe in divorce for religious reasons... if you marry someone who is using an assumed identity, does it still count? You agreed to marry someone named "Woods" not "Keirans" so are the vows still considered valid?

      In the USA, laws vary state-by-state.

      Here in Aus, the legal rules are more inclusive than the religious rules: in the Christian churches, (RC, Anglican, Lutheran, Brethren, Baptist etc), if your intention is to be married, you are married, even if you broke canon law or sinned in the method. According to the government, you are married even if you didn't intend to get married, if you've done the married things: living together, maybe joint accounts, certainly children.

      In no case would "using a false name" invalidate a marriage here. It might be evidence that no marriage was intended (which could affect your religious status), and would certainly raise the suspicion of Bigamy or Rape (which would affect your civil status), but by common law (which still has some relevant effect), you can use any name you choose for anything other than opening a bank account or getting a drivers license.

  4. alain williams Silver badge

    Why did he do it ?

    The write up does not give a clue.

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Why did he do it ?

      Probably because no one but the scammer knows, and the scammer isn't saying.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why did he do it ?

        The answer is the usual answer .....

        because he could !!!

        Cruel and nasty for the fun of it !!!

        Hope he does serve those 32 years in full in the worse jail possible.

        Something seriously wrong with USA .... this and the recent monkey torture story :(

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Why did he do it ?

          "Something seriously wrong with USA .... this and the recent monkey torture story :("

          Why is a country being blamed for a single criminal? Maybe, if I'm being generous, you could say that there is something wrong with the California police system which failed to unravel the crime*, but that wouldn't be the whole country either.

          * Not knowing many details, I'm inclined not to blame them too much. With an identity theft going on for three decades, including lots of documentation, it would be hard to prove who is correct from documentation alone. If one person has a full set of documentation for an identity and another one has a partial set, one of them has clearly stolen the set. Governments are likely to believe the one with the full set who has been working under that identity for seven years at the time because that is not typical for an identity thief. This may be a reason to treat all identity theft cases with more scrutiny, maybe getting DNA testing involved in all cases of identity confusion, but that has its own potential downsides.

          1. aerogems Silver badge

            Re: Why did he do it ?

            From the writeup, the police generally did everything you might consider reasonable. The scammer had a lot of fake documents to "prove" he was the "real" Woods, and sadly there's a confluence of 1) there generally being far more important things for cops to spend their time on, and 2) a lot of people becoming cops because they want the authority, not because they have any desire to actually help people.

            1. the future is back!

              Re: Why did he do it ?

              I generally agree with your comment. The time eating complexities of this (and others - as in a recent spoofed hack of a friend’s bank account a month ago requiring hours and hours online and phone) burn up precious time and expertise—such as it may be—of the police.

          2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

            Re: Why did he do it ?

            People blame the country because the country is always creating heroes out of executives who do the same but on a far larger scale.

            Go watch a tv show or movie or the news, they are always making cults out of executives who are considerably worse when one actually examines what they do for MORE money. Boeing destroyed families just so executives could get a bigger bonus. Everytime an executive has something to say the media gives them a platform, hardly any different from the american south where the criminals at the top are glorified and the slaves suffer. Even today the american south cant grasp at the stupidity and evil of fighting for landowners who stole the lives of black slaves for their greed. Today sporting heroes make millions while the slaves making the shoes get dollars a day and nobody asks the question what would the grandparents of the same atheletes think of this situation.

            But its all ok because of money.

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Why did he do it ?

              Axe is still not sharp.

        2. Cliffwilliams44 Silver badge

          Re: Why did he do it ?

          The problem with most identity crime is the person whose identity is stolen is not the victim. The banks that were defrauded are, the women he married is.

          It is also difficult to prove. It took DNA tests to prove this guy was not woods and police aren't going to expend resourced like that on someone they probably believe is just trying to get out of paying a debt.

          Yeah, it sucks, but I'll bet there are a whole lot of people crying "identity theft" that are just deadbeats.

          Laws need to be changed and lenders need to be more careful. I can guarantee you though, that if lenders start required more verifiable identity for loans, the race hustlers in America will file lawsuits crying racism!

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why did he do it ?

          Right, because cases of false imprisonment for decades never happen in the UK.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Why did he do it ?

      The first bit appears to be the typical identity theft playbook: steal someone's identity, earn some money on that identity to establish a history, borrow money, don't pay it back, if questioned, tell them it's not you. The normal method is that, once you've stolen money that way, you burn that identity and either stop committing crimes or go get another one. I'm not really sure why he kept doing things under the second identity. My only theory, and one I haven't researched, is that he may have polluted his own identity, for example getting arrested, at some point and used this as a backup.

      1. ChoHag Silver badge

        Re: Why did he do it ?

        The story claims he's a sysadmin and he's learned the first rule: if it ain't broke don't fix it.

        Presumably that's as far as he got.

      2. david1024

        Re: Why did he do it ?

        He kept using the assumed ID for a girl. They always get us.

      3. Orv Silver badge

        Re: Why did he do it ?

        I wondered if he wasn't a legal resident. That would explain the need for a false ID. But the article doesn't mention one way or the other.

    3. Marty McFly Silver badge

      Re: Why did he do it ?

      Does not make sense.

      Identity thieves are like a hit-and-run. They use an identity as long as it is beneficial, and then discard it. How can stealing the identity of a homeless person for 33 years be beneficial? Certainly not for long-term financial reasons!

      Perhaps the perp did something way back in 1988 that made it necessary for his true identity to 'disappear'. If I was the cops I would start looking at unsolved capital crimes from the late 1980's and see if the perp's true identity is on any lists of possible suspects.

      The use of DNA in criminal investigations was a new thing back in the late 1980's. Do a search for "mandy stavik" and read how a 30-year old cold case murder was eventually solved. If that perp had stolen an identity and disappeared his DNA would have never been connected to the crime.

      Yeah, stealing an identity for 33 years does not make sense for financial gain. There has to be a deeper reason.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Why did he do it ?

        It's possible. I'm inclined to think he just fell into a psychological trap. He stole Woods' identity and used it a few times, and that worked well for him. Then it became easier to remain "Woods" than return to his real identity or steal another, and with every day it was harder and harder to contemplate what would be necessary to unwind the deception.

        I might speculate that if something had gone badly for him — if his wife hadn't agreed to marry him, if he'd lost his sysadmin job — that he might well have pulled up stakes, abandoned the Woods identity, and started over again somewhere else. But he fell into a rut. And then when the real Woods tried to get the situation corrected, Keirans had to double down, and probably couldn't face the idea of ever getting out.

        That's why he folded when the detective presented him with DNA evidence. It was an excuse to just give it all up. Keirans likely expects to spend the rest of his life in jail; the idea of starting over might be unbearable for him at this point. In using Woods' identity for so long he effectively destroyed his own.

        If he hadn't been so thoroughly horrible and done so much damage I could almost feel just a little bit sorry for him.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why did he do it ?

      Why did he do it? The write up does not give a clue.

      From an Iowa paper "The Gazette", "Former University of Iowa Hospital employee used fake identity for 35 years" :

      It [the 1990 car purchased with rubber checks in Woods name] wasn’t the first time Keirans had stolen a car. When he was 16, he stole a car after running away from his adoptive parents’ home in San Francisco. He was arrested at the time in Oregon, under his own name, but never appeared in court, according to court documents.

      This sort of fits together now. He had a missed court date in his real name he thought he needed to escape from - maybe he had also taken some money from his adoptive parents when he left? He adopted another identity and got halfway though trashing that one when he began to age into a little common sense and his life began to come together, and instead of trashing the identity, he made "a good name for himself". Ha! (It doesn't say - but he must have been paying off the debt).

      If it is really that innocuous, the story induces some sympathy - until he missed the chance to come clean when the real Woods showed up.

  5. ModicumSuch
    Big Brother

    Was Room 101 overbooked?

    Woods was held in county jail for 428 days in total, and after a California judge deemed him mentally unfit to stand trial and Woods pleaded "no contest" to the two felony charges against him, he was sent to a mental hospital for a total of 147 days and medicated with psychotropic drugs. From then on, the judge also ordered Woods to only use his "true name," Matthew Keirans, going forward.

    “Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved being named Matthew Keirans.”

  6. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

    geniuses everywhere you look

    So some guy named Woods owes the bank $130,000. Some guy claiming to be Woods shows up to say "that's me, but I don't owe you the money". Later, some guy in Iowa says, "no no I am Woods, I can prove it, his name is Keiran". And, and, ... At what point does the bank go after the guy in Iowa for their $130,000 ??? The whole reason a guy walked into a bank was over the debt.

    And the police has some detectives! When was the last time an identity thief walked into a bank to "explain" things? Cuff him! The mind boggles. For crying out loud, identity thieves go after the deposits, not the debts. The California Woods just _had_ to be innocent. Only an innocent man would do what he had done.

    For the record, if I walked into a bank and said "My name is yetanotheraoc like it says on my cards" and their response was "we don't believe you", I would be in Mission Impossible mode quicker than you could say conspiracy theory.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: geniuses everywhere you look

      Not that it excuses it, but it would be a real breach of security for a bank to trust someone off the street claiming to be an account owner just because scammers “don’t want to go after debt.”

      For example: “Hi, I am the real yetanotheraoc. I have a mortgage with you for $300,000. Some scammer has stolen my account. Please restore my access. Since I also bank with you and autopay from my savings account, please be sure you sign over all accounts in my name.”

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: geniuses everywhere you look

        The real kicker is that the victim held a genuine piece of ID & the perp was faxing across (poor quality photocopied?) documentation, that tactic didn't work out so well for Jerry Lundegaard 23 years earlier in fiction.

        The victim clearly had a good idea of who was using his ID & to be forced by the courts to use it is just insult to injury.

        In this day & age of sending emails, surely the cop in charge of the investigation might have asked for actual scans, I can only assume that they hadn't seen Fargo.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: geniuses everywhere you look

      There are certainly reasons that might have happened with the person coming in being a criminal. The easy example is multiple holders of a single identity. If two people buy the same fake identity from a criminal who stole it, they may end up in an identity theft collision. Person A goes to take out the debt, person B hasn't gotten to that stage yet and is still pretending to be the person, all while the actual owner of that identity isn't doing any of the things that person A or B are doing. A bank could have decided that this was what happened in this case. This situation wasn't that, but there is a method by which a similar set of circumstances could arise.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: geniuses everywhere you look

        Exactly. And don't forget the real Woods ended up in a psychiatric facility, and the court decided he was actually Keirans. At that point, as far as creditors are concerned, the trail's gone cold. Fake-Woods has effectively been declared a victim of identity theft by the court, so going after him is a non-starter. Real-Woods has been declared unfit for trial, and is incarcerated, institutionalized, and then homeless; you're not getting $130K from him either. There might be another Fake-Woods out there, but you have no leads.

        And, of course, that debt has probably all been sold off to collectors at pennies on the dollar. Collectors write off debt as soon as it looks like it'll be any trouble to collect it. They only need a small percentage of total purchased debts to be collectable to make a profit.

        1. Falmari Silver badge

          Re: geniuses everywhere you look

          @Michael Wojcik " At that point, as far as creditors are concerned, the trail's gone cold."

          Before that point the creditors weren't following a trail, they had no need to look for Woods. The loans were all obtained from Iowa Credit Unions by Keirans using the Woods identity, the same identity he was employed under by an Iowa city hospital. Keirans was living, working and paying his taxes as Woods and presumably paying his loans as Woods. There is no mention in the linked memorandum he was defrauding the Credit Unions of money, just the loans were obtained using an assumed ID.

          When the Real-Woods tried to close the bank accounts in California he had a social security card and California state ID card. But didn't know the account numbers or where and when they were opened. The Faked-Woods did as he opened them, his was the registered address and phone number. Fake-Woods also had a birth certificate fraudulently obtained from the State of Kentucky, a Wisconsin driving license and a social security card and faxed copies to the LAPD.

          So who's the LAPD going to believe is the real Woods the obvious owner of the accounts, with ID, who answered the phone when the bank called the number associated with the accounts, or a homeless transient with ID trying to access bank accounts they clearly don't own?

          Where it went wrong, is after being arrested no one checked if Woods was who he claimed to be, after all he had photo ID (California state ID). As Woods had been charged with Identity Theft, why didn't the state public defender try and contact parents or siblings of Woods in Kentucky to checkout if he was who he claimed to be.

          1. starfurries

            Re: geniuses everywhere you look

            Yes, and then you have to look at the lie's from corrupt Los Angeles police. They already knew, and the corrupt Los Angeles police said to the banker that we could lie about it. And the banker said really can we do that? People in Los Angeles knew who I was. I've been on FouseyTube on you tube in the year 2015. Look up -you won't believe this.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is one of the types of criminal for which wood chippers are the appropriate solution.

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge


      But look at the american media including thereg.

      Look at the people they idolize and make heroes.

      Basically everone of the ceos mentioned on todays page have done far worse to far more people on a far larger scale than the iowa sysadmin.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Still so very, very dull.

        1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

          enlighten us with your wisdom if you can manage to type a complete sentence.

  8. disgruntled yank

    All very odd

    With the introduction of Real ID, it must be a lot harder to proffer forged licenses. But in the 1980s and before, county clerks were a lot more casual about providing copies of birth certificates, and he who has a legally valid birth certificate has a jump on getting everything else: driver's license, passport, social security card. There are probably a few thousand persons living quietly under false identification in the US. Those who took what I believe the professionals say is the best route, of assuming the identity of a child who died very young, will not need to fear the impersonated turning up at the bank or Social Security Administration office.

    I can see the attraction of taking the name William Donald Woods: Woods is a common name in the US, and the combination William Donald is not unusual: William Donald Schaeffer rose to be mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland. I can see the attraction of taking a hot dog vendor's name: the chances of the victim remaining unknown are better than if you assumed a physician's or engineer's name. But why assume a name? I suppose that Keirans had some police department looking for him when he started thisl

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: All very odd

      "Those who took what I believe the professionals say is the best route, of assuming the identity of a child who died very young, will not need to fear the impersonated turning up at the bank or Social Security Administration office."

      Until an unsuspecting family member, especially descendants, start taking "family history" into account and send off DNA samples to any of the genealogy companies out there and get "weird" matches back. A situation that has already happened numerous times and something the people "living the lie" never considered back in the day.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: All very odd

      "Those who took what I believe the professionals say is the best route, of assuming the identity of a child who died very young, will not need to fear the impersonated turning up at the bank or Social Security Administration office."

      I expect you're going for hyperbole, but it hasn't been the case for some time. Depending on your country, at some point in the last thirty years the intelligence services set up a system to check births deaths and marriages data with passport and tax data. Dead people doing anything is a pretty obvious red flag, and will absolutely have you under observation. Same as if there's a big difference between your entering and leaving the country.

      Most of the effective living hidden in plain sight involves co-operation of the identity holder, or a state actor. If a foreign government or the feds issued the new identity, good luck being able to ever say who a person really is.

      1. Bebu Silver badge

        "Dead people doing anything is a pretty obvious red flag"

        Apart from decomposing I should hope so.

        It really is a gorgeous line that could have easily been lifted from a satirical vampire or zombie movie... or contemporary US politics.

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: All very odd

      The problem is Real ID isn't mandatory, and indeed isn't even fully offered in all states. So someone offering a non-Real ID driver's license doesn't raise any red flags.

  9. Mike Friedman

    Holy crap. That's an insane story. I hope the entire fine goes to restitution to the victim for ruining his life.

    I also hope the victim sues the police for false imprisonment.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Sues the police? They're unlikely to have had Woods in lockup for more than a few days at most, and qualified immunity will most definitely apply.

      It's either the county or state that had Woods incarcerated, and that will likely have been at the order of the court. The state is what you go after for false imprisonment, not "the police". (In theory the police can be sued for false arrest, but in this case there was evidence — bogus, but evidence nonetheless — supporting a possible crime.)

      Frankly, I don't think Woods would have a case against the state, either. It's a shame, but Keirans did a pretty good job of flipping the frame around. It's not like there was gross prosecutorial misconduct here. Had Woods been able to afford an independent investigation he might well have been able to escape a miscarriage of justice, but he was indigent. The article doesn't say whether there was a trial (probably a bench trial) or if Woods took a deal or what, but I don't like his chances whatever choice he made.

      I'm as opposed to police and prosecutorial misconduct as anyone I know, and this case is certainly shameful, but I can't honestly say I see a gross violation of ethics by the California authorities in this case.

      Note the truth only came out after the hospital — Keirans' employer — paid for what was presumably quite an expensive private investigation. (And kudos to them for that.) The detective presumably had to do some groundwork to get that DNA sample from Woods' father for comparison; it's not like he just read the file.

      District courts in the US have to churn through a huge caseload. This one would have looked a little odd, but not enough to raise any alarm bells. Someone said "maybe this guy has mental issues" and moved him from jail to a treatment facility, which in the US counts as a beneficial outcome. Woods was hard done by, but someone tried to make it a little easier on him.

  10. the future is back!

    A true horror tale -

    Loopholes and mistakes and nastiness made this possible. My skin crawls at the very thought of our vulnerability amidst the evolving internet overlording.

  11. Jake Maverick

    A very similar thing happened to me a little over 18 years ago now.....~I have exactly the same problem, no body will believe I am who I am, homeless and destitute all this time, forced to survive with family...... UK here, nobody can help as I can't prove who i am!

  12. MacGuffin


    It will not happen, but I would like to see the judge personally punished for making Woods become Kierans.

    I guess I’m just not too particularly fond of judges, especially SCOTUS, at this point in time.

  13. Sleep deprived
    Thumb Up

    32 years in jail for 33 years of abuse

    Proper coincidence. Don't go for less.

  14. Nightkiller

    Finally. A real story about a BOFH.

  15. TrevorH

    This guy was on freenode and then IRC in the #centos channels for years and came across as a thoroughly nasty person.

  16. Grogan Silver badge

    The reason shit like this happens is, the people making these decisions are low intellect, petty authoritarian types. It's easy to convince them the kid did it all, while the eloquent, manipulative professional stokes their egos.

    Small minded hospital employees too... that kid just has to be wrong. The lower the salaries/wages, the lower the education, the more of this shit you get.

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      In other words every single american ceo ...

    2. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      I call bullshit, american ceos kill and destroy far more people, just look at Boeing ceos. how many people died ?

  17. captain veg Silver badge

    former coworker

    So, did he formerly ork cows, bur no longer does, or is he still doing it but only to former cows?


  18. Blackjack Silver badge

    Wow Visa is terrible at background checks, how the heck they gave him a card with all the debt he already had?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Look, Visa announced a strategic partnership with FTX in October 2022, so you're not all wrong.

      But they're not the ones issuing cards to people. The banks are.

      1. Blackjack Silver badge

        I guess banks give Platinum Visa Cards to anyone in debt?

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          They use a few methods to guess how likely you are to be able to pay it back, and you can quite easily get a credit card while having a lot of debt, especially if that is typically large types of debt like mortgages. Cautious banks may start someone with a lot of debt with a low limit and increase it. People are most likely to be rejected if they have no history with the identity or if they have previously failed to pay a debt. If you have borrowed tons of money but never missed a payment, they usually don't mind giving you some more. Even if you have missed a payment, if it was long enough ago, they may still accept you. They're in the business of lending out money, and sometimes it goes badly for them, but they lend to so many people that they can lose some of it without trouble.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          The bank can give platinum cards to whoever they want. Visa provides the scheme and/or the processing of the transactions. They're not involved with the bank account balance, and they'll get paid no matter what.

  19. Phil Kingston

    Dude needs to sell movie rights to his life. And a book. And I hope he's got a Go Fund Me.

  20. Bebu Silver badge

    The only reason this....

    typical story from the 50 states of lunacy made el Rego is the Woody Keirans was an apparently successful WFH sysadmin. If had been shonky* local politician, shonky* lawyer or shonky* realtor selling dodgy property in Arkansas it would have made this publication apart from the fact he would probably have been a 2024 presidential candidate or in line for the SC.

    The BOFH can be a complete bastard (and possibly a little too frequently homicidal) but his victims' suffering are usually shortlived with the resolution involving stained rolled carpet stowed in the basement or a vertical trip to the carpark. I would say very little unnecessary cruelty involved but more the the cruel but fair type.

    * pretty much implicit and therefore redundant.

  21. Wzrd1 Silver badge


    OK, the state did what states should do, issue a warrant.

    Where the US federal government fucked up massively was, arrest and entirely fail to examine fingerprints to prove identity.

    At that point, might as well confined King Charles and legally, that is equal, both innocent, both confined without any fucking evidence at all and exculpatory evidence abounding.

    And unlike other nations, we do air such dirt laundry to ensure other peers don't have to do so.

  22. starfurries

    Yes, I am William Donald woods. I earned my electronic engineering certificate at Kirkland community college in Michigan in the year 1985. Later I worked at Hyatt regency in Cincinnati Ohio in the years 1987 to 1988. Later I went to Albuquerque new Mexico in the year 1988 and I worked on a hotdog cart in the years 1988 to 2002. I went to Santa Monica California in the year 2003. Later I left and went to San Diego California in the year 2004. I earned my windows XP certificate from San Diego city college in the year 2004. I was in San Diego California in the years 2004 to 2008. I went to Santa Monica California in the years 2009 to 2023. I left and went to san Diego California in the year 2023. Later I left and went to Albuquerque new Mexico in the year 2023. In the year 2015 I was on FouseyTube on YouTube. You can see me on FouseyTube called: you won't believe this. Matthew keirans is in jail where he belongs.

    1. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

      The Boeing CEo killed hundreds and got a tens of million dollar bonus and this guy gets jail ... American justice.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like