35-year long identity theft leads to imprisonment for victim


Sometimes the consequences of a stolen identity exceed anything you could have imagined.

Matthew David Keirans, a 58-year-old former hospital employee has pleaded guilty to assuming another man’s identity since 1988. He was convicted of one count of making a false statement to a National Credit Union Administration insured institution and one count of aggravated identity theft.

The man whose identity he assumed—William Donald Woods—and Keirans worked together in 1988 at a hot dog cart in Albuquerque.

Keirans was wanted for theft, so he used Woods’ identity “in every aspect of his life,” including obtaining employment, insurance and official documents, and even paying taxes under Wood’s name, according to a plea agreement signed by Keirans. He even fathered a child, whose last name is Woods.

In 1990, Keirans obtained a fraudulent Colorado identification card with Woods’ name and birthday. He used the ID to get a job at a fast-food restaurant and to get a Colorado bank account. He bought a car for $600 in 1991, using Wood’s name, with two $300 checks that bounced.

It wasn’t the first time Keirans had committed car theft. When he was 16, he stole a car after running away from his adoptive parents’ home in San Francisco.

In 2012, Keirans fraudulently acquired a copy of Woods’ birth certificate from the state of Kentucky using information he found about Woods’ family on Ancestry.com.

Under the assumed identity, Keirans also worked as a systems architect for the University of Iowa Hospital where he was fired for misconduct related to the identity theft investigation.

Meanwhile, the real William Woods was homeless and living in Los Angeles, when he discovered that someone was using his credit and had accumulated a lot of debt. Woods didn’t want to pay the debt and so went after the account numbers for any accounts he had open so he could close them. He handed a bank employee his real Social Security card and an authentic California Identification card, which matched the information the bank had on file. But because there was a large amount of money in the accounts, the bank employee asked Woods a series of security questions that he was unable to answer.

At that point, the bank employee called Keirans, whose phone number was associated with the accounts. He was able to answer the security questions correctly and stated that no one in California should have access to the accounts.

So, the bank employee called the police and after an investigation, the real Woods was arrested and charged with identity theft and false impersonation, under a misspelling of Keirans’ name: Matthew Kierans.

Because Woods refused to give up his own identity, a judge ruled in February 2020 that he was not mentally competent to stand trial and he was sent to a mental hospital in California, where he received psychotropic medication and other mental health treatment.

For legal reasons, Woods pleaded no contest to the identity theft charges—meaning he accepted the conviction but did not admit guilt—and was sentenced to two years imprisonment with credit for the two years he already served in the county jail and the hospital and was released.

But he didn’t give up his fight for his identity even though the judge ordered him to stop using the name William Woods. He attempted to regain his identity by filing customer disputes with financial organizations to clear his credit report.

It wasn’t until a police detective tested Woods’ biological father’s DNA against Woods’ DNA. Both men had the same birth certificate with the father’s name on it. The DNA test proved Woods was the man’s son. During a follow-up interview Keirans made a mistake and eventually confessed to the prolonged identity theft, according to court documents.

Keirans was indicted on five counts of making a false statement to a National Credit Union Administration insured institution and two counts of aggravated identity theft. He pleaded guilty to one count of each charge, and the other counts were dropped.

A sentence ruling has not yet been scheduled. Keirans is currently in the custody of the US Marshals Service, according to a news release about his plea.

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