Identity Theft Victim Wrongfully Imprisoned for Two Years Finally Exonerated

William Woods, a 55-year-old man who spent two years in prison while asserting that his identity had been taken more than three decades ago, was today declared “factually innocent” in a courtroom in Los Angeles. 

Judge William Ryan of the Los Angeles Superior Court pronounced Woods a free man after a “Kafka-esque” and “astounding” case in which Woods was falsely convicted of crimes. 

Despite his threats to sue the police and prosecutors, Woods was absent from the hearing, choosing to monitor the proceedings on a video call. 

Matthew Kierans, 58, the actual identity thief, is now facing a possible 32-year jail sentence. While impersonating Woods, Kierans racked up more than $200,000 in fraudulent loans.

In 1988, while working at a hot dog shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Keirans had the idea of stealing fellow worker Woods’ identity. 

Keirans got a job at a fast food joint and opened a bank account in Colorado in 1990 after getting a false ID in Woods’ name and using his birthdate. He used Woods’ identity to purchase a vehicle in 1991 for $600, but two of his checks—each for $300—bounced. A child born to Keirans and his wife in 1994 took the surname Woods.

Los Angeles man Matthew Woods, who was homeless in August 2019, found out that someone was taking money out of his bank accounts and accruing debt. Although he requested the accounts be closed, he could not answer the security questions Matthew Keirans had set up. In response to the bank teller’s report, the Los Angeles Police Department interrogated Woods and Keirans. The police took Woods into custody and filed charges of false personation and identity theft. He was sent to a mental institution after being deemed unable to face trial.

Keirans earned over $700,000 over his ten years as a systems architect at the University of Iowa Hospital. After learning about Keirans’s job, Woods contacted the hospital’s security detail. Ian Mallory, a detective, began looking into the matter and eventually located Woods’ biological father, whom he compared genetically to that of Woods and Keiran. Woods confessed to long-term identity theft during Mallory’s interview; after the interview, Woods was arrested.