Or, he filed the patent years ago, and then filed a series of updates to it. Each update delays the final "approval date" and allows him to modify the patent. Over time, he can craft a vague sounding patent and/or one that covers existing technology. Then, his "prior art date" is from a year before when he INITIALLY filed the patent. So while the final patent might have been considered innovative if filed as-is on the initial filing date, patent trolls abuse the "update" system to draw their patents out until they are hard to beat via prior art.
That's simply not true. While patent applicants can file continuation applications with revised claims, they must have support in the originally-filed application, and the applicant cannot modify the original application at all. If anything is added that wasn't in the original document, then the "prior art date" is moved to when the modification was added. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuing_patent_application#Continuation.