She added solemnly, in 19-year-old speak, “If I get it, it’s my responsibility to pay it back. They’re just helping me, which is awesome.”
Keester applied for that same loan six times that month, creating a fake BU acceptance letter and class schedule. She was ultimately denied.
On the job at Planned Parenthood, she “divulged details of her personal life [that] people weren’t comfortable with,” remembers Meagan Gallagher, now COO of the company’s Massachusetts branch. Keester told co-workers she had just gotten divorced and had moved in with a friend, whose children she was helping care for.
She gave a polished interview but, shortly after being hired, was caught snooping in Gallagher’s office for no reason.
“Her response was, ‘Oh, I’m just looking out the window,’ ” recalls Gallagher. “She was very good at coming up with plausible Explanations for what she was doing.”
The company’s CFO noticed a problem with the payroll during Keester’s first week — “This woman is not doing what I ask her to do,” Gallagher recalls hearing — but Keester was given the benefit of the doubt, until authorities notified the company of the check fraud.
When Gallagher called to fire her, “Her response was, ‘Am I going to get paid?’ ”
“In the end, looking back,” says Gallagher, “we came to believe she was her own references. It was just so bizarre, but people weren’t surprised by any means.”
‘I’m not Karen Keester’
Keester didn’t show up to her June 14, 2006, arraignment in Brighton, and a warrant was issued for her arrest several weeks later. When investigators entered her apartment at 81 Joy Street, they found a photo of Keester’s high-school track team, a plan for kitchen redesigns, and a picture of a ballerina that looked like her.
But Keester was already one step ahead of them, having days earlier moved nearby to 130 Bowdoin Street. In July, when an alert law firm notified authorities that Keester had applied for the position of payroll manager, investigators closed in.
“Karen Keester,” an approaching police officer called to her. Keester’s survivalist reflexes were astounding. “I’m not Karen Keester,” she said, as she continued walking.
Then Blair rounded the corner. “Remember me?”
In her pockets were a business card for local staffing agency Aerotek, a copy of her driver’s license, information for a bank account at Schwab, a Social Security number (not hers) written on a piece of paper, and a check from Planned Parenthood for $1047.85.
After pleading guilty in December 2006, Keester arrived at the South Middlesex Correctional Center in Framingham to serve a two-year sentence on work release. She was assigned to work at a local bagel chain, with the caveat that she not be allowed near the register. Meanwhile, Keester planned her escape. Jail tapes reveal that she told her parents she was being discharged as part of the witness-protection program for tattling on a fellow inmate. In August 2007, she told her mother to pick her up at a corner near the bagel store.
The two drove north to visit family and were headed to Ohio when authorities called Keester’s mother’s cell phone. The caller heard Keester’s mother drop the phone.
“Karen! You lied to me!”
“Mom, I had to,” Keester responded.