It takes an identity thief

By JACLYN TROP  |  April 27, 2010

Gersch froze. Now there was no doubt that Karen and Michelle were the same person — and soon all of Beacon Hill would recognize her as the woman who had bilked neighbors, landlords, employers, the Social Security Administration, and men she met at bars and through dating Web sites out of more than $250,000, using six driver’s licenses, at least four different Social Security numbers, and three different dates of birth. She had lived in and systematically vacated seven Boston-area apartments in six years, including four on Beacon Hill. In an age when identity theft has everyone on high alert, she was, authorities told the Phoenix, its most industrious practitioner.

“Here’s a woman who’s clearly bright enough to pull this off,” says Gersch, noting that Keester could have moved out of the neighborhood to stay one step ahead of authorities, “but she stays on Beacon Hill until everyone knows she’s a scam artist.”

Every way possible
A petite, saucer-eyed brunette, Keester, now 35, first made headlines in the summer of 2006, when she was caught trying to cash a fraudulent check from her then-employer, Planned Parenthood, at an Allston Check X Change. Authorities claimed that Keester, who had been under investigation after a similar offense in December 2005, netted more than a quarter-million dollars in a five-year scamming spree, including allegedly defrauding the Social Security Administration out of more than $91,000 in disability payments. Keester pled guilty to 24 counts of attempted larceny and identity fraud in December 2006. (Another 20 counts of related charges were dismissed as part of a plea bargain.)

Keester surfaced again in the summer of 2007, when she escaped from her Framingham work-release program and was recaptured in Ohio the following day. After racking up another round of identity-theft charges while on probation during the summer of 2008, Keester served the rest of her original sentence, and upon her release in April 2009, authorities granted her request to spend her three-year probation in Oklahoma, provided she see an outpatient mental-health counselor, which her Oklahoma probation officer told the Phoenix she is doing.

After Keester serves her time in Oklahoma, she will have the opportunity to voluntarily return to Boston to answer three outstanding warrants for forgery, identity theft, and larceny in connection with even more fraud charges she wracked up during her summer 2008 probation. If she doesn’t return, she will be subject to arrest once again.

(While were able to speak with numerous law-enforcement officials in Greater Boston and Oklahoma, we were not able to track down Keester, and her parents made it clear that they would not speak to us.)

In Oklahoma, Keester’s name has since come up in blog posts from potential employers there (including a manager at a Norman, Oklahoma, Chick-fil-A) who claim to have stumbled upon her criminal record while doing their due-diligence background checks.

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