Longtime impostor who inspired film pleads guilty

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit-area impostor who inspired an award-winning film about being someone else pleaded guilty to identity theft and fraud last Thursday after he was caught with records from a U.S. Military Academy graduate.

William Street Jr., 64, likely faces two years or more in prison.

Police investigating bad checks caught Street in February with a doctor's coat bearing the name of William Benn Stratton. Stratton works for a Hanover, Maryland, defense contractor and is a graduate of West Point, but he's not a doctor.

Street said he read about Stratton, who was a Green Beret, stole his identity and obtained replacement diplomas and transcripts from West Point and Duke University.

"I went online and conducted research into the individual's background," Street told U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain.

He said he posed as Stratton to avoid being arrested for buying a $7,000 Rolex with a bad check. He also posted an online resume with Stratton's background.

"The best job offer was selling insurance," defense attorney Joseph Arnone said.

Street has convictions going back decades and even fooled the Detroit Tigers into giving him a tryout in the 1970s. He was the inspiration for the movie "Chameleon Street," which won a major prize at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival.

Street will get his sentence on Jan. 28. By agreeing to a plea deal, he avoids a trial that could have led to two decades in prison. Arnone believes Street's days of deception are over.

"When you come this close to spending the rest of your life in prison, I think he realized that. He came real close," Arnone told The Detroit News.

Published: Mon, Sep 28, 2015