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Tuesday 09 November 2010

'Kosmo Krator' - A Stolen Identity

Posted in: True Stories
By Matt Akersten - 8th January 2010

Almost every day for over eight years, a 44-year-old Christchurch man has been on the internet, gaining online friends by passing himself off as attractive and sporty 20-something 'Kosmo Krator'. Then he started taking their cash.

Sporty stud: The picture was used to represent 'Kosmo Krator'
Kosmo's fake life ended yesterday.

Using photos from random overseas websites, John McKeage created the fake online identity for himself way back in 2001. Over the years, his blog entries, MySpace profile, gay dating, Facebooking and Twitter typings attracted loyal readers who cared about the ups and downs of his life: the guys he was meeting, the troubles with his boss... it was all there. He got so popular online that he started calling himself the "ruler of the universe."

But 2009 was a bad year for Kosmo. His emotional stories about losing his job, having no money, falling ill, and twice being robbed, led his generous online mates to send him money via a Paypal account on his blog.

By now, several of Kosmo's contacts had smelled a rat. There were only ever just a couple of photos of him, and attempts by anyone to meet him had been fruitless, even though many of his typings suggested he'd be keen company for a fun liaison.

'How many hearts has he broken?'

Then a Facebook group 'Does Kosmo Krator actually exist?' started a few days ago. Its contributors were shocked at the instant response. Within hours, all sorts of Kosmo-related stories surfaced.

Joseph Ainsworth is just one of Kosmo's former online friends who now realises he was duped for cash. It was "stolen," he alleges.

"Kosmo Krator doesn't exist. He's a 44 year old man called John... he pretends he is broke and cons young gay men out of money, getting them to deposit it into his account," Ainsworth said as the controversy reached boiling point.

"I was in Christchurch in June and tried to meet up with Kosmo, after chatting extensively on Gaydar. He stood me up three times, so I was a bit miffed.

"When he later asked for a loan of $500, knowing I had just left my high-paying job in Dubai, I fell for it. [He] deleted me. Never heard from him again. I just thought 'Oh well, not his type, move on.'"

Ainsworth saw the Facebook group and joined, "for a laugh." Now, he says, "the men are coming out of the woodwork. I checked and all his sites are owned by John McKeage, a 44-year old web page builder. John is also a photographer, he photographs [rugby] players... the cards began to fall into place."

Ainsworth is not cutting his former 'friend' any slack. "Read all about it and warn others not to fall for this deception," he posted. "This man has stolen from many men. But the thing that hurts the most is thinking how many men waited patiently in pubs for him to show. How may hearts he may have broken.

"I would feel sorry for him, and take him out for a beer if he hadn't willingly stolen all that money. It's just disgusting. To be honest the only reason I'm trying to make a song and dance about it is I can't stand the idea of anyone else being hurt by him, I'm a bit protective."

Detective work

Ainsworth isn't alone. Over the last few days several men have shared their stories. "The drama and life of 'Kosmo Krator' is more like a fictional story created by someone with plenty of time to waste," is one typical comment now posted on Facebook.

"FINALLY!" shouts another of Kosmo's former contacts. "I've been speaking to him for about 4 years now, even a handful of times on the phone. About a year and a half back I confronted him about misrepresenting himself, purely through his 'recycling' of photos... this was confirmed when I visited Christchurch for 2 weeks, and he couldn't once grab a beer... I knew he was a sham, I was just testing."

After using various photos, many of which appear to have been sourced from overseas websites, to create Kosmo, McKeage also posted several cheeky undies shots of men seemingly taken in changing rooms without their knowledge. Some basic detective work even matched Kosmo/McKeage to a small Christchurch rugby club which he may have taken photos for. If voyeuristic pics were posted online without the players' knowledge another serious allegation is added to the growing list. has contacted the club in question, with no reply received yet.

This morning however, Kosmo's many online contacts found that all online traces of their luckless buddy have disappeared. Blog gone. MySpace profile gone. Facebook page gone. Twitter page erased. Was it an admission of guilt?

'Kosmo' explains the lies and deceptions

A regretful and emotional McKeage agreed to talk to to tell his side of the story. By phone from Christchurch he said he'd seen the Facebook group and knew of all the allegations leveled against him:

"There's now a lot of rumours out there but I want people to know the facts," he begins.

"I don't know why I chose my online name Kosmo Krator. It didn't mean anything. I found the pictures for it online." Why? "I've been asking myself that. It's not something I have an answer to. I just saw them online and thought people would respond well to them. I know they would have assumed that I looked like that person.

"The first lie turned into the second lie, and more, and then you can't go back. It's not something I planned or wanted to have happen. But I kept with it. There's probably a million other guys doing the same things... but I'm not excusing what I did.

"I never asked for any financial assistance at all. When money did come in, I shouldn't have accepted it, but I did need it. So I made the mistake of accepting offers of help. I told them I was very grateful and thanked them.

So the photos he used might be of other people, but how real was the 'Kosmo' character? "All the things I wrote were true of my life," he responds, acknowledging that he is, like 'Kosmo,' a gay man. "And I was happy until a year ago. But I lost my job, had no friends, had no money and was on a downward spiral. I've even been burgled twice.

"So everything I typed was true. I just had a mask over my face. Then people believed me when I said I needed help, and the support came out of the blue. I wasn't getting any support from any other source. It's not something I can explain easily. I told the truth about me, but I was in a costume."

McKeage says he never arranged to meet someone and then failed to turn up. "I wouldn't do that. There was one guy once who was insistent that we meet - he had travelled some way and was very keen - but I never said I'd meet him. I always said no to meetings."

Another allegation he rejects is that he took candid pictures of rugby players in their changing rooms. "That's a complete fabrication. It's ridiculous to think I'd do that, or even be able to do that. Have you been inside a changing room? They are so small, you'd be able to tell if someone was taking pictures. Hey, I may have done some stupid things but I'm not that stupid."

'I can't live like this anymore'

As the pressure mounted, including exhortations for those who felt duped to contact the police, the last message 'Kosmo' sent out on was yesterday evening: "Kosmo wants to fix things but not while under duress or with a gun to his head."

McKeage shared a similar sentiment with "I've tried to deal with it, to resolve things. But it's difficult to do so now with the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head."

He adds: "Actually, no one's called me about this until now. I'm waiting for a few people to get back to me about their issues. Among them was a small amount, $28, and one was $300, but I never got a $500 payment. There are only three people who have sent me money. Hopefully they can talk to me without getting too angry, and I'll find out what I can do.

"I can understand people's anger over this. I hope we can all calm down and sort this out. Facebook is a window into other people's lives and that's what hurts, when things go wrong and people are misled," he reflects.

"Anyone who tells a lie secretly wants it to stop, to be found out. My plan now is to stop these lies. I want this solved, and I'm willing to sit down and talk to the people affected."

As for his alter-ego: "My website and profiles are now offline since yesterday and they'll stay offline. I can't live like this anymore."

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Matt Akersten - 8th January 2010