Homeless man arrested after another man steals HIS identity, lives high on the hog for decades

A California man whose identity was stolen has finally been cleared of committing crimes that he in fact had never committed.

The story originates in 1988, when Matthew David Keirans stole William Woods’ identity while the two worked at a hot dog cart in New Mexico.

“After 1988, there was no record of Keirans ever using his own name, date of birth or Social Security number,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

“Instead, he obtained employment, insurance, a Social Security number, driver’s licenses, titles, loans and credit using Woods’ identity. He even paid taxes under his former co-worker’s name,” the Times reported Thursday.

It gets worse.

When Keirans got married in 1994 and later had a child, the child bore Woods’ last name, not his. And then in 2012, Keirans reportedly even obtained a certified copy of Woods’ birth certificate from Kentucky.

“He later got a job — as Woods — working as a systems architect at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics,” according to the Times. “Keirans provided the hospital with fake identification documents, including a fictitious I-9 form, Social Security number and date of birth.”

“Keirans worked remotely from his home in Wisconsin and earned at least $700,000 from the hospital over a 10-year period. Between 2016 and 2022, he obtained vehicle and personal loans totaling more than $200,000 from credit unions under Woods’ name,” the Times notes.

Everything began to change in 2019, when Woods, then-homeless in California, went to a Los Angeles branch of a national bank and tried to close his account because he’d discovered that someone had accumulated a bunch of debt with his credit card.

Using his Social Security card and ID, employees at the bank pulled up a bank account that was actually owned by Keirans and proceeded to ask Woods several security questions that he failed to answer.

“The bank employee then called the number tied to the bank accounts,” according to the Times. “Keirans answered. He told her no one in California should have access to his bank accounts. He correctly answered the security questions. The assistant branch manager called the police.”

Guess who went to jail … Woods!

Indeed, the authorities accused HIM of stealing his own identity and of being Matthew Keirans, the actual identity thief.

Some time later on Oct. 31st, 2019, Woods was charged with two felonies, prompting him to reportedly declare in court, “I’m not Matthew Keirans at all.”

But it only gets worse. Months later in February of 2020, he was deemed not mentally competent to stand trial, tossed into a psychiatric hospital, and ordered to be hopped up on psychiatric medication.

“People didn’t listen, and they didn’t know I was who I said I was,” he recalled to the Times. “They were painting it like I was crazy.”

Eight months later, Woods was moved to Patton State Hospital, and the following year he was convicted of the felony charges in March.

“He pleaded ‘no contest’ and was sentenced to two years of imprisonment in the county jail, although the court credited him for the 428 days he spent in jail and the 147 days he spent in the hospital,” according to the Times. “He was ordered to stop using the name William Woods.”

He now claims he’d pleaded guilty in the hopes of getting the case dismissed.

The beginning of the end finally came when Woods discovered where Keirans worked and contacted the Iowa City hospital’s security department, who in turn reported his allegations to the police.

Detective Ian Mallory later obtained DNA from Woods and his father, who was listed on his birth certificate, and confirmed that Woods was indeed who he’d claimed to be all along.

Dovetailing back to the present, Keirans has since pleaded guilty to making a false statement to a National Credit Union Administration-insured institution and aggravated identity theft and is now facing decades in prison.

Meanwhile, the convictions against Woods were officially vacated on Thursday by a judge who called the case “astounding.”

“The word that comes to mind is Kafkaesque, out of the novels of Franz Kafka,” Judge William C. Ryan said.

“I’m happy, because I knew I was innocent anyway,” Woods told the Times afterward. “I knew I was innocent.”

Vivek Saxena


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