If there’s just one word that can be used to perfectly describe Brett Johnson, as seen on Netflix’s ‘Web of Make Believe: Death, Lies, and the Internet: The Stingray,’ it is captivating. After all, not only did he share the details of his criminal past, as well as the fact he’s essentially the one who taught Daniel Rigmaiden how to launder money, but he also remained upbeat throughout. So now, if you wish to learn more about his past, his experiences, a few of his offenses, and most importantly, his current standing after serving time in federal prison, we’ve got you covered.
Who is Brett Johnson?
Born and raised in a relatively poor neighborhood in Eastern Kentucky alongside his younger sister Denise, Brett Johnson was surrounded by scams even when he was a little kid. “My mom,” he admitted in the Netflix original, “Jeez, my mom was basically the captain of the entire fraud industry, and I mean no crime [was] too big or too small.” In fact, she reportedly pushed her children to actively get involved in hustles when Brett was around 10, and then she managed to convince his grandmother to join in as well — the family dynamic seemingly helped them steal a lot.
Brett conceded he gets his criminal mindset from his mother in the documentary episode, but he also added that he couldn’t blame his childhood for his wrongdoings as an adult. “No, it [was] my choice as an adult to commit crime,” he openly said. “My sister goes off to be a good parent, teacher, good citizen. Me? I’m just the guy who didn’t stop.” From Beanie Babies eBay scams to pirated software and from installing mod chips into electronic devices to illegally programming satellite DDS cards, he did it all before jumping into major frauds like money laundering.
That’s how Brett found himself not only looking at online cybercrime forums but also operating two major ones himself as GOllumfun — Counterfit Library and then ShadowCrew. He even earned the moniker “The Original Internet Godfather” by the Secret Service owing to his vocation, especially since he continued down this route till there was no return. Upon his initial 2005 arrest, Brett was offered a chance to work for the Service (entrapping other cybercriminals), but he was thrown into prison because he was simultaneously pursuing illicit activities in their own office.
Where is Brett Johnson Now?
Brett Johnson went on the lam following a state (not federal) ruling that his bond was improperly revoked, as per the show, and by 2006, he was on the Most Wanted List for cybercrime as well as laundering $4 million. Eventually, he was arrested at Disney World, convicted of 39 felonies, and sentenced to a total of 7½ years, only to return to federal prison (he was released in 2011) for an additional ten months for parole violation. Since then, though, the former hacker has genuinely turned over a new leaf thanks to his sister Denise and wife Michelle’s constant support.
Brett actually credits the FBI in his redemption path as well, claiming that while the two women saved his life in every way that matters, a special agent guided him towards the right track. Thus, today, as a first-hand expert on cybercrime, identity theft, fraud, and cybersecurity, the Alabama resident serves as a public speaker as well as a consultant. His goal now is to protect others from the kind of person he once used to be. Brett also hosts ‘The AnglerPhish Podcast’ and ‘The Brett Johnson Show,’ plus he recently joined the fraud prevention and account security company Arkose Labs as the Chief Criminal Officer.
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