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Deepfake identity theft is at our doorstep

Fake AI pictures and videos will be nearly impossible to discern from real images as the technology behind deepfakes advances, University of California, Berkeley professor says.

A Wisconsin man is facing decades behind bars for a 36-year identity theft scheme in which the victim was sent to jail and even a mental hospital because authorities did not believe his story. 

Matthew Keirans, 58, faces up to 32 years in prison for making false statements to a National Credit Union Administration insured institution and aggravated identify theft.

In 2019, the victim, William Woods, was homeless man living in Los Angeles when he found out someone was racking up debt using his name. Woods walked into a California bank, said he didn’t’ want to pay, and tried to close the accounts that Keirans had opened in his name.

Matthew David Keirans mugshot

Matthew David Keirans pictured in custody.

He provided his social security card, as well as his California ID. The branch manager asked the real Woods a series of security questions. Unable to answer them, the bank called police, according to court records. 

Keirans, listed as Woods on the account, told police he didn’t give anyone in California permission to access his bank accounts. He then faxed police a series of fraudulently acquired identification documents, court records show.

Police arrested Woods and charged him with identity theft and false impersonation. They insisted that Woods was actually called Matthew Keirans, though it’s not clear how police linked Woods or the bank accounts to that name.

Because Woods repeatedly disputed the identity authorities foisted upon him, a California judge found him not mentally competent to stand trial and sent him to a state mental hospital, where he received psychotropic medication.


Woods spent 428 days in county jail and 147 days in the mental hospital before he was released after agreeing to a no-contest plea. He was ordered to pay $400 in fines and to stop using the name William Woods. Still, Woods continued to push to regain his identity. 

Woods reached out to the University of Iowa Hospital where Keirans had used Woods’ ID to get a job and was earning more than $100,000 a year. Security there referred Woods’ complaint to the University of Iowa Police. 

Keirans initially insisted in an interview that the victim was “crazy” and “needed help and should be locked up,” federal prosecutors said. But a detective tracked down the biological father listed on Woods’ birth certificate and tested the father’s DNA against Woods’ DNA. The test proved Woods was the man’s son.

When police confronted Keirens about the DNA evidence, he said: “My life is over” and “Everything is gone.” He pleaded guilty to federal charges this week. 

Court records show the two men first met when they both worked at a hot dog cart in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in the late 1980s. There is no record of Keirans using his own name or social security number after 1988, and he started to publicly assume the name William Woods in 1990, court documents show. 

Over the years, Keirans married and had a child, all as Woods. He even used a genealogy website to research Woods’ family history and used that information to fraudulently obtained a copy of Woods’ Kentucky birth certificate, federal prosecutors said. 


A sentencing date has not been set in the federal case, but Keirans spent 20 days in jail last year on related state charges in Iowa. Meanwhile, a hearing is set for next week in California to vacate Woods’ conviction.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Bradford Betz is a Fox News Digital breaking reporter covering crime, political issues, and much more. 

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