Ken McGagh/Daily News staff
Karen Keester, 33, a convicted scam artist, stands during her arraignment at Natick District Court.
By Norman Miller/Daily News staff
MetroWest Daily News
Posted Jul 30, 2008 @ 12:29 AM
A Framingham woman who once defrauded three companies and Social Security of more than $200,000 and then escaped from a work release program is in trouble again, accused of trying to steal a woman's identity, prosecutors said yesterday.
Karen Keester, 33, who lives at the Monticello Motel in Framingham, pleaded not guilty to the charges in Natick District Court just a month and a half after she was released from MCI-Framingham following nearly two years in prison.
"She is a methodical schemer," prosecutor Brian Fahy said.
On Friday, Keester was arrested by Natick Police. An employee of Hollywood Tans on Rte. 9 told police Keester had come to the tanning salon recently and pretended to work for a store at Natick Collection.
Keester told the employee that she wanted to hire her for a job, and the woman was very interested.
"Ms. Keester somehow convinced the victim to give her her license and Social Security card," Fahy said.
The woman later got a call from a bank in Boston that someone was trying to use her information to open an account. Police investigated, and discovered Keester was responsible.
"When Ms. Keester realized she was, in fact, in trouble, she asked the officer if she gave the license and (Social Security) card back, could he make sure she was not in prison on Monday," Fahy said.
Keester was charged with larceny of a Registry of Motor Vehicle document and identity fraud.
Fahy asked Judge Sarah Singer to set bail at $2,500 for the new case but to revoke bail on her open escape case.
Keester was serving one to two years in prison as an inmate at the minimum security South Middlesex Correctional Center in Framingham. In August 2007, she was on a work-release program in Framingham when she took her break at 10:15 a.m. and never returned.
Fahy said Keester had convinced her mother that she was working with the FBI and that her release was part of an investigation. Her mother, who lives in New Mexico, met her outside the Framingham business where Keester was doing her work release and then drove her to Ohio.
Keester, who was serving a sentence for scamming businesses she worked at in Boston, was arrested two days later.
Keester was arrested in 2006 in Boston after a summer-long fraud investigation. She was accused of stealing more than $129,000 from three Boston companies, as well as defrauding Social Security of more than $91,000, according to court records.
At various times, she would pretend to be her own, nonexisting identical twin, or would answer phones using English or Southern accents.
She pleaded guilty on Dec. 21, 2006, to 24 counts of larceny, attempted larceny and identity fraud after a plea bargain in Suffolk Superior Court.
Keester was released from prison last month.
"She's convinced her mother of her lies," said Fahy. "She stole more than $100,000 from a company in Boston. Now she tried to steal someone's identity."
Keester is scheduled to appear in Middlesex Superior Court in Woburn on Monday for a trial assignment hearing on her escape case. She is charged with escaping from a penal institution and escaping from a work-release program.
Keester's lawyer, Samantha Gillombardo, argued against her bail being revoked on the escape case. She said Keester was willing to pay the $2,500 bail and she would report daily to the probation office.
Keester's mother even agreed to move into the motel with her daughter.
"This isn't someone who poses a danger to herself or others," Gillombardo said.
Singer said she was willing to set bail at $2,500, but with the requirement that Keester remain under house arrest and wear a GPS ankle bracelet.
But because Keester lives at a motel that was impossible because a dedicated home phone line is needed for the monitoring device.
Gillombardo also suggested Keester may have mental health problems. Keester suffered a major stroke more than eight years ago, which may affect her criminal responsibility.
Singer said she would not release Keester without the ankle bracelet.
"She's highly likely to get in trouble," the judge said. "The district attorney correctly pointed out the kind of havoc that can be wreaked on a person's life by her actions."
Keester will be held at MCI-Framingham.
She is due back in Natick District Court on Aug. 19 for a pretrial conference on the new charges.