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Obliterated fingerprints helped man elude capture

Allison Klein

With more than three decades in the drug running business, William Wallace Keegan had to be pretty crafty not to be caught or killed.

His secret, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration? He had all 10 fingers surgically altered above the first joint, obliterating his fingerprints so authorities couldn’t identify him.

But they caught him anyway. DEA agents, hot on his trail, were able to finally nab him last year by matching his lower joint prints with an arrest from 1977 -- under the name Richard King.

Keegan, 62, was sentenced last week in Phoenix federal court to five concurrent life sentences for drug trafficking, plus 20 years for money laundering.

Authorities said Keegan, who had lived in Florida, California and New York, was responsible for a major marijuana and cocaine pipeline from Mexico to Arizona and New York. He would have drug packages sent to himself in hotel rooms via U.S. mail.


Keegan's fingerprints (U.S. DEA).

At the trial, prosecutors showed that between 2005 and 2008, Keegan’s business was responsible for moving well over 150 kilograms of cocaine with a value of more than $2 million.

This case might make you think those cutting-edge iris scans likely to come to local police departments and jails aren’t such a bad idea. The machines scan the eyes of someone during an arrest or booking, then store the pattern of the iris in a database.

They are said to be much more reliable than fingerprints in identifying people -- as agents in the Keegan case probably know too well.

-- Allison Klein

By Allison Klein  |  December 14, 2009; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  Allison Klein , Around the Nation , Narcotics  
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