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NextGen Magazine


Most Prolific Counterfeiter in U.S. Was Doomsday Prepper With Great Dark Web Customer Reviews

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Feb 7, 2019

With $4.1 million in near perfect fakes of hundred dollar bills, the man who would eventually be revealed as 34-year-old Daniel Johnson, a doomsday prepper with an affinity for firearms, was the most prolific counterfeiter in the United States, according to the LA Times. The Secret Service, which in addition to protecting the president also investigates counterfeiting, first became aware of him through glowing customer reviews on the dark web, praising him not only for the quality of his products but his commitment to customer service: he not only offered a money-back guarantee if customers weren't satisfied with his bills, he also allowed buyers to track their shipments in a similar way to the post office or Amazon, except, you know, illegally. This shipment-tracking service, according to the LA Times, was what ultimately allowed the authorities to pinpoint who he was, despite working through layers upon layers of anonymity procedures, such as only using the Tor network and only dealing in bitcoin. 

The LA Times said that Johnson was living a double life the entire time he was running his counterfeit currency operation. His girlfriend at the time knew nothing about the operation, and believed his name to be Ross Moore (because Johnson had stolen Moore's identity years ago), that he had gone to Harvard (the diploma was fake), that he had a niece (his screen-saver photo was actually of his daughter), and that he had done secret work for the government (the government was actually working to find him!) The counterfeit currency maker, it turned out, had a counterfeit life. 

When authorities finally caught up with him, forcing his truck off the road with a 10-car convoy, he got out, armed with an AR-15 rifle (remember, his other major interest was preparing for the collapse of civilization), and was killed after a brief firefight. His death, according to authorities, means that they won't know how he learned to make such convincing counterfeits and, perhaps more saliently, they don't have access to the password to access the bitcoins he'd been paid to distribute them. 

While Johnson was the biggest name in counterfeiting in the United States, he was apparently a big fish in a small pond, as the biggest source of counterfeit U.S. currency is Peru, which accounts for one-third of all fake bills. North Korea is also a well-known distributor of high-quality counterfeit bills, as it is estimated to have produced $45 million worth of notes since 1989.