Man’s Life Turns Into Nightmare After Identity Theft – Authorities Refused to Believe Him, Judge Ordered Stay in Psych Ward

Man’s Life Turns Into Nightmare After Identity Theft – Authorities Refused to Believe Him, Judge Ordered Stay in Psych Ward

This is one of those stories that would make a great script for an Adam Sandler movie.

Except, it’s the tragic tale of a life ruined by lax laws and safeguards in an increasingly digital world.

For 35 years, Matthew David Keirans secretly lived someone else’s life. Using the stolen identity of William Donald Woods, the con man married, had a child, landed lucrative jobs, took out loans and lived the American dream — while the real William Woods suffered through homelessness and psychiatric imprisonment for crimes he didn’t commit.


In 1988, Keirans, then 23, worked alongside Woods at a hot dog cart in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During that time, Keirans stole Woods’ identity and later used it “in every aspect of his life,” according to The Gazette.

Keirans obtained a Colorado ID in Woods’ name in 1990, opening bank accounts and even buying a car with bad checks before fleeing the state when an arrest warrant was issued for Woods over the unpaid vehicle. By 1994, the fake William Woods was married. A child followed soon after, his last name also now Woods.

But the story becomes even more bizarre.

In 2012, Keirans fraudulently acquired Woods’ official Kentucky birth certificate by finding family details on ancestry websites. Using Woods’ birth certificate and a fictitious I-9 form to pass the hospital background check, the fake Woods became a “high level administrator in the hospital’s information technology department,” according to Ars Technica. Keirans’ $140,000 per year job as a systems architect at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinic lasted around ten years, earning him over $700,000 under the stolen identity.

Between 2016 and 2022, Keirans also obtained eight vehicle and personal loans from two different credit unions by using Woods’ name, Social Security number and date of birth. The loan amounts ranged from $15,000 to $44,000 each, totaling over $200,000, Ars Technica reported.

Meanwhile, the real William Woods was living a nightmare as a homeless person.

In 2019, Woods discovered he had accrued around $130,000 in debt under his name.

Woods visited a national bank branch in Los Angeles and informed an assistant manager that someone had been using his credit information to accumulate large debt amounts. Woods provided his legitimate Social Security card and California ID card. However, the assistant became suspicious when Woods could not answer security questions associated with the accounts Kierans had set up.

Somehow, Keirans managed to convince police that he was the real Woods, despite Woods providing official IDs. The result was that Woods ended up being declared mentally incompetent and sent to a hospital in California, where he was treated with psychotropic drugs for an entire year.

In March 2021, still unable to convince authorities of Keirans’ criminal impersonation scheme, Woods entered a no-contest plea to the charges of identity theft and impersonation relating to his own identity. He was sentenced to two years imprisonment, but with credit for the two years he had already spent wrongfully jailed and institutionalized, he was released.

Woods was also ordered to pay $400 in fines and barred from using his own real name, William Woods, going forward.

Finally, in January 2023, Woods saw a potential path to validating his real identity.

Woods traced Kierans’ employment to the University of Iowa Hospitals and contacted their security department, filing a complaint that Kierans had stolen his identity years ago. This launched an internal probe by the university police into verifying which man was the legitimate William Woods.

The University of Iowa  Police Detective Ian Mallory was an “experienced detective” who took Woods’ claims seriously.

Mallory was able to use DNA evidence provided by the real Woods’ father to finally confirm that Woods was the real victim all along.

When Mallory asked Keirans what his father’s name was, he accidentally gave him his own adoptive father’s name.

Upon being confronted about his decades of identity theft, Keirans confessed, responding, “my life is over” and “everything is gone,” and then admitted to stealing Woods’ identity for decades, according to court records.

Kierans was indicted on Dec. 12 for five counts of making false statements to credit unions and two counts of aggravated identity theft. He was found guilty on one count of making a false statement to a federally-insured credit union, a felony offense that carries a maximum potential sentence of up to 30 years in federal prison. Additionally, he was convicted of one count of aggravated identity theft, a crime punishable by up to two years of imprisonment under federal law, the Gazette reported.

While the story sounds almost unbelievable, there are millions of Americans dealing with identity theft every year.

In the first half of 2023 alone, Americans reported 560,000 cases of identity theft, according to NASDAQ.com.

With our growing reliance on digital systems to store personal data, gaps in security and identity verification processes are being exploited by sophisticated criminals.

Lawmakers need to overhaul dated protocols and increase penalties for digital identity theft.

In the meantime, the time-tested practices of having a community of people who can serve as a support system and notice red flags are still an important part of personal safety.

Whether it’s coworkers, neighbors, family members or financial advisors, caring human witnesses are often first to notice something amiss that doesn’t align with someone’s known identity, activities and character.

Be careful about who you trust, and check in on the older members of your community.

Criminals prey on the weak and vulnerable, so at the end of the day, human connection is our best defense in an increasingly impersonal society.


This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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