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William Woods

Other Los Angeles County, California no crime exonerations
On April 11, 2024, more than 35 years after his identity was secretly stolen by a co-worker and more than three years after he pled guilty to identity theft, 55-year-old William Woods finally got justice in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Woods’s March 17, 2021 conviction for identity theft and impersonating someone was vacated, and the charges were dismissed.

“The word that comes to mind is Kafkaesque, out of the novels of Franz Kafka,” declared Superior Court Judge William Ryan as he signed the dismissal of Woods’s case following a motion to dismiss by the Conviction Integrity Unit (CIU) of the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.

The dismissal of the case came a week after the person whose identity Woods was convicted of stealing, Matthew David Keirans, a former hospital administrator, admitted in federal court in Iowa that he was the one who committed identity theft by stealing Woods’s identity back in 1988. He pled guilty to two federal charges as part of a plea agreement reached with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times after his case was finally dismissed, Woods said, “I’m happy because I knew I was innocent.”

The strange tale began in 1988 when Woods and Keirans were working together at a hotdog cart in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Unbeknownst to Woods, Keirans stole Woods’s personal information.

Keirans’s plea agreement stated, “For the next three decades, and until at least July 17, 2023, [Keirans] used [Woods’s] identity in every aspect of his life. [Keirans] obtained employment, insurance, a social security number, driver’s licenses, titles, loans and credit using [Woods’s] identity.”

Keirans admitted that he paid taxes and obtained credit under Woods’s identity. “After 1988, there is no record of [Keirans] ever using his own name, date of birth or social security number,” Keirans’s plea agreement said.

The plea agreement contained a laundry list of fraud committed by Keirans in Woods’s name. He bought a car in 1991 with checks that bounced. Keirans drove to Idaho where he abandoned the car. Keirans withdrew the last dollars from his bank account and left Idaho. Eventually an arrest warrant was issued in Woods’s name in Colorado.

In 1994, Keirans got married and the couple had a child who bore the name of Woods. In 2012, Keirans fraudulently obtained a certified copy of a birth certificate in Woods’s name from the state of Kentucky. A year later, Keirans–known as William Woods–began working at a hospital in Iowa City, Iowa. He was a high-level administrator in the hospital’s information technology department, working remotely from his home in Wisconsin. Over a 10-year period, Keirans earned more than $700,000 from the hospital, rising to an annual salary of more than $100,000.

Between August 2016 and May 2022, Keirans obtained several loans totaling nearly $250,000 from two different credit unions in Iowa, under the name of William Woods.

Meanwhile, the real William Woods had fallen on hard times. He was homeless, and he discovered that somehow a mountain of debt had been accumulated in his name. On August 20, 2019, Woods went into a bank in Los Angeles. He told the assistant branch manager that he had recently discovered the debts in his name. He told the manager that he did not want to pay the $130,000 in debt and wanted to close his accounts at the bank. Woods said that he believed someone had stolen his identity.

Woods presented his Social Security card and a state of California identification card. This information matched the information on the bank accounts. However, when the manager asked a series of security questions, including details such as the date the accounts were opened, Wood was unable to answer them. The manager noted that the customer information on the accounts showed the account owner was in Wisconsin.

The manager called the phone number on the account and Keirans answered. He told the manager that there was no one in California who should have access to the account. Keirans then answered the security questions accurately.

The manager called Los Angeles Police, who spoke to Keirans on the telephone. Keirans said he had not given anyone in California access to his accounts. He also faxed to the police a copy of his social security card, his Wisconsin driver’s license, and the Kentucky birth certificate.

As a result, the police arrested Woods that day on a charge of identity theft. On October 31, 2019, the District Attorney’s office filed charges of identity theft and false impersonation against Woods.

On December 23, 2019, Woods’s public defender expressed concern over Woods’s mental competence because he kept insisting that he was the real William Woods. On February 10, 2020, following an examination by a physician, Woods was declared incompetent to stand trial and was sent to a California mental hospital for treatment, including psychotropic medication.

On October 20, 2020, after delays due to bedspace and restrictions due to the COVID-19 epidemic, Woods was finally moved from the Los Angeles County Jail to the hospital. One of Woods’s first statements to his examining physician was that he intended to file a lawsuit against the man who had stolen his identity.

During this time, Keirans–the fake William Woods–was reaching out periodically to the police and prosecution to find out the status of the case against Woods. He insisted that he was the person whose identity had been compromised.

Ultimately, on March 17, 2021, Woods, having been deemed competent, appeared in Superior Court where he pled no contest to the two charges. In return, he was sentenced to two years in custody, but released the following day because he had been deemed to have served the time while in jail or the mental hospital. He received credit for 428 days in county jail, with an additional credit of 428 days of good behavior, and 147 days credit for the time in the mental hospital.

After he was released, Woods kept trying to prove his identity, although a court order had been entered requiring him to use his “true name, Matthew Keirans.”

In June 2021, the state of California began attempting to collect costs of Woods’s stay at the mental hospital from Keirans, not knowing that it was the real Williams Woods who had been confined there. Keirans responded that he had been a victim of identity theft and copied the police officer and prosecutor in the case against Woods.

In August 2021, Woods contacted the police in Hartland, Wisconsin, where Keirans was living and complained that Keirans had stolen his identity. Keirans learned of the complaint and told Hartland police to reach out to Los Angeles authorities. “I am concerned that [Woods] now knows approximately where I live,” Keirans wrote. Keirans then filed a complaint with Hartland police accusing Woods of stealing his identity.

Woods kept filing complaints, unsuccessfully, wherever he could to try to untangle the identity mess. Keirans kept up a barrage of denials and assertions that he was the true victim.

In January 2023, Woods learned where Keirans worked and contacted the hospital security department to complain that Keirans had stolen his identity and was working under Woods’s name. The complaint was referred to law enforcement, and over the next several months, a detective finally unraveled the truth.

The police obtained DNA from Woods and Woods’s father in Kentucky. On June 20, 2023, a comparison showed that Woods was the son. The genetic paternity comparison indicated that Woods was, in fact, Woods.

When police interviewed Keirans on July 17, 2023, he insisted he was the real William Woods and that Woods was “crazy” and “needed help and should be locked up.” When asked for the name of his father, Keirans, who had been adopted, made a critical mistake. He named his adoptive father, not the man in Kentucky who paternity testing had indicated was William Woods’s father.

When confronted with the DNA evidence, Keirans said, “my life is over…everything is gone.” He confessed, starting with the theft of Woods’s identity when they worked at the Albuquerque hotdog cart.

On April 1, 2024, Keirans pled guilty in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, Iowa to one count of making a false statement to a credit union and one count of aggravated identity theft. As of April 15, 2024, Keirans was awaiting sentencing.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 4/21/2024
Last Updated: 4/21/2024
County:Los Angeles
Most Serious Crime:Fraud
Additional Convictions:Other
Reported Crime Date:2019
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:51
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes