Man pleads guilty to stealing former coworker’s identity for 30 years

Man pleads guilty to stealing former coworker’s identity for 30 years

A high-level Iowa hospital systems administrator, Matthew Kierans, has admitted to stealing a coworker’s identity and posing as William Donald Woods for more than 30 years, The Register reported.

On top of using Woods’ identity to commit crimes and rack up debt, Kierans’ elaborate identity theft scheme led to Woods’ incarceration after Kierans’ accused his victim of identity theft and Los Angeles authorities failed to detect which man was the true William Donald Woods. Kierans could face up to 32 years in prison, The Register reported, and must pay a $1.25 million fine.

According to a proposed plea agreement with the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Iowa, Kierans met Woods “in about 1988” when they worked together at a hot dog stand in New Mexico. “For the next three decades,” Kierans used Woods’ “identity in every aspect of his life,” including when obtaining “employment, insurance, a social security number, driver’s licenses, titles, loans, and credit,” as well as when paying taxes. Kierans even got married and had a child using Woods’ name.

Kierans apparently hatched the scheme in 1990 when he was working as a newspaper carrier for the Denver Post. That’s when he first obtained an identification document in Woods’ name. The next year, Kierans bought a vehicle for $600 using two checks in Woods’ name, the plea agreement said. After both checks bounced, Kierans “absconded with the stolen vehicle to Idaho, where the car broke down and he abandoned it.” As a result, an arrest warrant was issued in Woods’ name, while Kierans moved to Oregon and the whereabouts of the real Woods was seemingly unknown.

Eventually in summer 2012, Kierans relocated to Wisconsin, researching Woods’ family history on and then fraudulently obtaining Woods’ certified birth certificate from the State of Kentucky, seemingly to aid his job hunt. Sometime in 2013, Kierans was hired by a hospital in Iowa City to work remotely from Wisconsin as a “high level administrator in the hospital’s information technology department,” using Woods’ birth certificate and a fictitious I-9 form to pass the hospital background check.

Over the next decade, Kierans earned about $700,000 in that role, while furthering his identity theft scheme. Between 2016 and 2022, Kierans used Woods’ name, Social Security number, and date of birth and “repeatedly obtained” eight “vehicle and personal loans” from two credit unions, each one totaling between $15,000 and $44,000.

Woods only discovered the identity theft in 2019, when he was homeless and discovered that he inexplicably had $130,000 in debt to his name. Woods attempted to close bank accounts that Kierans had opened in Woods’ name, and that’s when Kierans went on the defense, successfully pushing to get Woods arrested to conceal Kierans’ decades of identity theft.

LAPD fails to detect true identity

In 2019, Woods walked into the branch of a national bank in Los Angeles, telling an assistant branch manager that “he had recently discovered that someone was using his credit and had accumulated large amounts of debt,” the plea agreement said.

Woods presented his real Social Security card and an authentic state of California ID card, but the assistant branch manager became suspicious when Woods could not answer security questions that Kierans had set for the bank accounts.

The bank employee called the phone number listed on the accounts, which was Kierans’ number. At that point, Kierans correctly answered the security questions, and the assistant branch manager contacted the Los Angeles Police Department to investigate Woods.

As a result of LAPD’s investigation—which included contacting Kierans and reviewing Kierans’ fraudulent documents, which at times used a different middle name—Woods was arrested for unauthorized use of personal information. Subsequently, Woods was charged with committing felony crimes of identity theft and false impersonation, facing as much as three years’ incarceration for each count.

Woods continued insisting that he was the real victim of identity theft, while the California court system insisted he was actually Kierans. This continued until December 2019 when a state public defender told a court that Woods did not have the mental competency to stand trial. The court ordered Woods to be detained in a publicly funded California mental hospital until his mental competency improved, where he was given psychotropic medication in 2020.

Ultimately, in March 2021, Woods was convicted of the felony charges and after his release, he was ordered to “use only” what California decided was his “true name, Matthew Kierans.” In total, Woods spent 428 days in jail and 147 days in a mental hospital because California officials failed to detect his true identity.

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