Keester could speak with saccharine naïveté, but become instantly indignant if a situation called for it. “Karen was deceitful so often, I don’t know if she knew her real voice,” says Helsel. “Every relationship was a mask — and it was bad.”
Her one confirmed serious relationship — with an accountant in Newton — lasted for three years before Keester started acting strangely, recalls the man, who asked not to be identified in print.
The couple met in 2000 in the accounting department at Cabot Trust, where Keester worked briefly. They dated for six or seven months before moving in together in Newton.
“She just seemed like a simple, honest person,” says the man, besides the fact that “it didn’t seem like she could hold down a job.”
He claims Keester first began acting erratically when he bought a condo for them in 2003, with the intention of proposing marriage. She started hiding the furnishings his mother bought for them— as well as Keester’s own Christmas gifts to him — in the trunk of her car.
“I bought a house — a condo — in a nice town. It’s better than renting. Anyone would see that as a step in the right direction. Maybe she just wanted me to blow the money on something crazy.”
Meanwhile, Keester was a regular at Echo Bridge Restaurant, a Newton pub down the street from where she and her paramour lived, and where, years later, a bar full of regulars remembers her as an “odd duck” who used to come in for chicken fingers and an amaretto sour — and who badgered the owner for a job so that, the owner says, she could presumably access the cash register.
“Some of the guys thought she was hot,” recalls the owner, who asked to remain anonymous. “She had a dancer’s body. She’d show it off when she wanted to. She followed me around, trying to get close to me.”
Keester struck a balance between ingratiating herself with the customers and showing off by claiming to be a ballerina.
“She was the sweetest girl,” says the owner. “She really tried to impress people with the fact [that] she was a ballerina. She came across as a little aristocratic.”
A sophisticated scheme
Though she had been arrested before (a July 2004 incident, in which she allegedly stole checks from her blind date’s checkbook), Keester first interested authorities in December 2005, when her employer, Cambridge-based CFO Publishing, noticed she had written herself two checks under the name CFO Enterprises totaling $64,969.75.
Investigators saw that the money moved quickly, traveling through Citizens Bank to New Mexico and New York in one day.
“I could tell right away that this person had a sophisticated scheme going on,” recalls Durette, who had been an investigator for 19 years when he opened Keester’s file. “We knew right away that there was something up.”
When Keester was first hauled into the Special Investigations Unit, Blair recalls, “she seemed to be very quiet, shy, but she had that look in her eye.”
Keester denied wrongdoing, claiming that she was “straightening their business out,” remembers Blair, “that she could do a better job than them.”
“I was thinking, ‘This woman is as slick as they come,’ ” he adds. “Why would a temp worker be able to straighten out a major company’s finances by taking their checks and depositing them into her own accounts?