True Crime: Doug Street, Human Chameleon

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Doug Street, Jr. never got his GED. Yet, the genius con man snuck into Yale, landed a job with Time, worked as a lawyer and even performed a stunning number of operations as a surgeon. Oh, and in his spare time he dabbled in extortion and credit card fraud. This is his story.

THE PRELUDE

William Douglas "Doug" Street, Jr., is a man of high intelligence but little formal education. He never graduated from high school and never got his GED. He worked for his father in Detroit installing burglar alarms in homes and businesses, but felt that there was more to be had out of life. And he was impatient to grab that gusto that the beer commercials promised us was out there for the taking.

THE GREAT PRETENDER

In the early 1970s, Doug Street was married to a demanding woman. She loved the finer things in life and was constantly urging her husband to get a better job and earn more money so that they could live the lifestyle she preferred. Street came up with a plan in 1971 to earn a quick $50,000 "“ he'd simply extort it from Detroit Tiger slugger Willie Horton by telling the married Horton that he had compromising photos of him with other women.

In order to infiltrate the Detroit ballclub he called General Manager Jim Campbell and claimed that he was wide receiver Jerry Levias of the Houston Oilers. Impersonating Levias, Street said that he was tired of football and wanted to try his hand at baseball. The Tigers gave him a plane ticket, a uniform, and had him pose for a lot of press photos. Then someone from UPI decided to phone the Oilers office for a quote and found out that the whole thing was a scam.

Picture 23.pngImpressed by his near-success, Street decided to try again. This time he posed as a Harvard Medical School graduate and talked his way into a residency at Detroit's Wayne State University Medical School. From there he moved to Illinois, where he worked as a surgeon at a Chicago hospital and performed 36 hysterectomies before being discovered. (One of his colleagues noticed that Street seemed to run back and forth to the men's room a lot; he followed him one day and caught Doug referring to a stack of medical textbooks he had stashed in there.)

Street next enrolled at Yale University as an exchange student from Martinique, even though his command of the French language was limited to "J'accuse! Jacques Cousteau. Jacques Brel." He used false credentials to land a job as a reporter for Time magazine and then moved back to Motown where he passed himself off as an attorney for the Detroit Human Rights Commission.

HOW HE GOT CAUGHT

Street's undoing came in the early 1980s when he attended a black tie fundraiser while in his attorney persona and he bumped into his ex-wife, who was now a Jehovah's Witness. She blew the whistle on him and Street ended up serving time in first the Kinross Correctional Facility and later Jackson State Prison for credit card fraud as well as practicing medicine without a license. While serving his sentence he cooperated with Wendell B. Harris on a film loosely based on his life called Chameleon Street.

Ed. note: images are of Wendell Harris as Doug Street in Chameleon Street.

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