Missing Massachusetts prisoner found in Ohio

Norman Miller

A convicted scam artist who walked away from a work-release program in Framingham on Thursday was found yesterday at her father's house in Ohio, authorities said.

Karen Keester, 32, will be held at the Franklin County Jail in Grove City, Ohio, until the Department of Correction's fugitive apprehension unit picks her up, spokeswoman Diane Wiffin said.

"We will work with the Middlesex District Attorney's office to pursue criminal charges," she said. "We hope to have her back within 48 hours."

Keester, 32, is an inmate at the minimum security South Middlesex Correctional Center in Framingham and was on a work release at an undisclosed location.

Keester did not return from her break at 10:30 a.m., and the manager of the work release contacted authorities at 11:55 a.m. Keester was declared a fugitive, Wiffin said.

Investigators tracked Keester to Vermont and then to Ohio, where she was arrested by Grove City Police at 7:15 a.m.

Wiffin credited several departments, including the Massachusetts State Police, Vermont State Police and several departments in Ohio and Vermont, who "conducted an intensive search that was instrumental in finding her."

It is still being investigated how Keester got to both Vermont and Ohio.

Once she is returned to Massachusetts, she will be held at a higher level of security than when she walked away from the work-release program, Wiffin said.

Keester was sentenced to one to two years in prison after she was convicted last year of larceny of more than $250, Wiffin said. She was committed to MCI-Framingham on Dec. 21 and transferred to the South Middlesex Correctional Center on June 6, Wiffin said.

Keester was set to be released on July 15, 2008.

Keester was arrested last summer 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 the Beacon Hill Times.

At various times, she would pretend to be her own, non-existing identical twin, or would answer phones using English or southern accents.

She pleaded guilty on Dec. 21 to 24 counts of larceny, attempted larceny and identity fraud after a plea bargain in Suffolk Superior Court, according to the Beacon Hill Times.

(Norman Miller, a reporter for MetroWest Daily News, can be reached at 508-626-3823 or at nmiller@cnc.com)