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Man called a great impostor is charged with identity theft

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  • This undated photo provided by the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office shows William Douglas Street Jr. (Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office/Detroit News via AP)

DETROIT » Police investigating bad checks say they found much more: A Detroit-area impostor who inspired a 1989 award-winning film was posing like someone else — again.

William Street Jr., 64, was charged in federal court with fraud and identity theft after he was found with documents and a white doctor’s coat with the name of a Maryland man, William Benn Stratton.

Street has two dozen convictions going back decades and even fooled the Detroit Tigers into giving him a tryout in the 1970s, The Detroit News reported Friday.

"Oh my God, you can’t make this stuff up. I am completely dumbfounded and speechless," said Stratton, 54, who isn’t a doctor but a vice president at ClearShark, a technology company in Hanover, Maryland.

Street was the inspiration for "Chameleon Street," which won a major prize at the 1990 Sundance Film Festival. Defense attorney Joseph Arnone acknowledged the "long history here" and said he was investigating the allegations.

"He has proved himself to be extraordinarily resourceful in perpetuating his schemes," U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford said last week in keeping Street locked up while he awaits trial.

Street told the FBI that he decided to assume Stratton’s identity after reading about the former Green Beret running a marathon, according to a court filing. He obtained diplomas, transcripts and a U.S. Military Academy class ring in Stratton’s name, the FBI said.

The white coat had Stratton’s name and the name of a University of Michigan medical clinic.

"He was at U of M, saw the lab coat laying around and he picked it up. He’s just an opportunist. If he sees something, he takes it and takes on that role," said Robert Antal, a Plymouth Township police detective.

In 1985, Street told the News that the Tigers tryout was a turning point.

"That was the first time I found out how easy it was to get people to believe whatever you said as long as you said it right," he said.

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