A decades-long con-artist career could come to an end if William Douglas Street, Jr., is convicted of stealing a Defense Department contractor’s identity, reports the Detroit News. The 64-year-old Detroit native has 25 convictions and 11 prison sentences from 46 years of cons, most famously for impersonating Houston Oilers wide-receiver Jerry LeVias and using the identity to nab a tryout with the Detroit Tigers. Street, also known as “The Chameleon” and “The Great Impostor,” is in jail awaiting trial on charges of aggravated identity theft and mail fraud.
Throughout the years, Street has been caught impersonating professional athletes, a doctor and a law student, among others, and his escapades inspired “Chameleon Street,” a 1989 film that won a prize at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival. This most recent arrest resulted from an investigation into bad checks Street allegedly wrote to a jeweler and dry cleaner, and when police found him, they reportedly found evidence of another stolen identity: William Benn Stratton, M.D. The name was embroidered in a lab coat found in Street’s car.
Street is also said to have possessed alumni cards from West Point and Duke University, in addition to a West Point class ring in Stratton’s name. (Stratton, a former Green Beret, attended both schools.) Street told the FBI he only used Stratton’s name to get a job, the Detroit News reports, but Street allegedly took on Stratton’s identity at multiple alumni events, including one at which he spoke, posing as Stratton. He also reportedly used the identity to try and pick up women.
According to court records cited by the Detroit News, Street’s interest in Stratton began when he saw an article about Stratton running a marathon. The article mentioned Stratton’s alma mater, and Street later told the FBI that West Point seemed like “a good place to be from.”
If convicted of the identity theft and mail fraud charges, Street could face more than 20 years in prison. Street’s history as a con artist is interesting — entertaining, even — but it highlights a serious issue facing consumers today, perhaps more than it was when Street started conning more than 40 years ago. Strangers can easily find information about you and use it to impersonate you or create an entirely new identity, based on bits of information from a variety of people.
Not only is it unsettling to have someone using your name, but their actions could also come back to you in a damaging way. Such fraud could muddle your medical, financial and criminal records, and the longer it goes unnoticed, the more difficult it can be to clear up. One way to monitor for fraud is to regularly check your credit — you can get a credit report summary for free every 30 days on Credit.com. That may not keep someone from claiming your identity, but if they try to use it to open credit accounts, you’ll be able to quickly identify and stop the fraud.
More on Identity Theft:
- How Can You Tell If Your Identity Has Been Stolen?
- What Should I Do If I’m a Victim of Identity Theft?
- How Credit Impacts Your Day-to-Day Life