Informant ran tax scam under Secret Service's nose

Never trust a snitch. That seems to be the lesson from the case of Brett Shannon Johnson, who was hired by the U.

Never trust a snitch. That seems to be the lesson from the case of Brett Shannon Johnson, who was hired by the U.S. Secret Service to catch credit card and identity thieves. Johnson, worked undercover for 10 months for the U.S. Secret Service until it was discovered that he was double dealing, reports Wired News.

"It was $350 a week (from the Secret Service) vs. $5,000 or $6,000 a week" from his fraudulent tax-refund scam, Johnson told Wired News by phone, prior to his sentencing on charges of aggravated identity theft and other crimes.

Johnson was ordered to serve six years and three months in prison, and to pay more than $300,000 in restitution. He used his time at the Secret Service to purchase computers using stolen credit-card numbers and filed more than 100 fraudulent tax returns. He stole the information from laptops in the agency. Johnson says that agents made only cursory reviews of the audit trails. Johnson says he didn't commit any crimes from the government office.

"There were two agents with him at all times, and we had a 42-inch plasma (monitor) that projected everything he did on it," says Neal Dolan, special agent in charge of the agency's South Carolina division. "You'd have to have been asleep not to have seen what he was doing (if he were committing crimes) -- and they weren't."

But outside the office, it was another story.

"This wasn't a mafia case where we were going to sit on this guy 24 hours a day," Dolan says. "He was told we'd make spot checks on him. But he's an adult. I told him, if you want to go back to jail then you know what path (to take), and that's the path he took."

There are guidelines but no standards for monitoring and hiring informants. There is little data on informants because its not in the government's interest to tell the public who it uses as informants or how it uses them.

And when outsiders, like the website Whosarat.com, publish information about snitches, it makes prosecutors very cranky.