As many of you may already be aware, I left Florida for Arizona last month. I was planning on leaving in July after my yoga teacher certification training with Ally, but things don't always work out as planned. The story is a long one with many parts I won't be discussing publicly for the safety of my family. Although I slowed down talking about it, I can assure you that I'm still very much hard at work piecing the puzzle together and seeking justice. If you don't already know the parts of my story I documented on my blog, I suggest you go back and read my previous posts, because I'm not repeating myself for those too lazy to do their homework.
For anyone who already knows my past and wants to know more about that missing section, here are the basics:
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Bank of America/QBE
I'm a whistleblower. For the last 2 and half years, I've been waging class warfare against the banks who destroyed our economy by artificially inflating home prices, rigging financial markets, and manufacturing home foreclosures and vehicle repossessions. They created a compartmentalized assembly line, luring innocent citizens into loans they can't afford. After locking people into these loans, they proceeded to use hidden escrow fees to raise payments. These fees created huge profits for the entire financial industry at the expense of the American middle class. Countless lives were destroyed as every State and Federal government agency turned a blind eye.
I blew the whistle in an unorthodox way that took the banking industry by surprise. Rather than reporting the fraud I witnessed to the government, I released internal emails to the media and public through Anonymous. Building off the momentum of that action, I helped devise, organize, and promote the Occupy movement. All the while I worked with every government regulator I could find, training them on the internal workings on the back end of the loan servicing process. My goal wasn't to focus on one single instance of fraud. I saw too much to do that. Instead, I armed these regulators with the knowledge necessary to go into these systems and find whatever fraud they needed to find.
My work led to force-placed insurance becoming a target for widespread scrutiny and regulation, infuriating the financial industry. In October 2012, I sought closure for the retaliation I experienced for my actions by speaking to the Executive Vice President at Bank of America who ordered their corporate security to file a false bomb threat against me. His actions put me on terrorist watch lists that forever changed my life. He also informed me Bank of America and QBE (who purchased my company from BofA in 2011) keep files on me, building cases to smear my name and further destroy my life.
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My battle against the bank gained me the attention of a lot of activists. After seeing behind the curtains of the banks, I did everything I could to get a job with one of the government regulators. I applied for job after job with everyone from the NY Dept of Financial Services to the FHFA to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Each of these agencies was more than happy to accept the information and training I provided, but nobody wanted to pay me. I wanted so bad to do the right thing by serving my country by enforcing regulations against the banks, but the government wasn't interested. Because of my troubles with law enforcement stemming from the bank's false bomb threat, I found myself unemployable anywhere else either. The more I fought the banks, the more I realized nobody in power is ever going to bring justice to these criminals. The government wasn't my only avenue though.
Outside of my work with the government, I worked with Anonymous, supporting several operations in defense of civil liberties and human rights worldwide. While the government ignored me, Anonymous was more than happy to accept my ideas. I learned a lot from Anons. The experience changed my world view, teaching me a whole new way to look at life. I was initially scared to claim any affiliation with the group. Anons were being hunted by law enforcement. I didn't understand who was what, and I didn't want to get in any more trouble than I was already in. By the start of 2012, I realized my only hope for humanity lies within the ideals of Anonymous. I finally understood my place in the world, so I donned the Guy Fawkes mask and dedicated my life to defending those ideals.
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My trials and tribulations caught the attention of mainstream media. I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and New York Times for my work. Searching for a way to turn my experiences into a career that could put a roof over my head and food on my plate, I moved to Clearwater, Florida to attend school for legal studies. I knew Florida was the hardest hit state from the bank's foreclosure factory because of the need for mandatory flood and wind insurance nearly statewide.
While there, I got a job working as a legal assistant for an ambulance chaser. Eventually I was contacted by the Huffington Post to write 4 pieces regarding my work with the Occupy movement. After I completed the 4 pieces, I realized I had back-end access to the Huffington Post. I started submitting pieces to every vertical. My goal was to get my name published as many times as I could. I knew my name would forever be attached to Bank of America. I didn't have to spend the rest of my life explaining their fraud. I only needed to be myself, be happy, and be successful. That alone was enough to gain momentum against the bank. If it had to be me or them that gets detroyed, it certainly wouldn't be me.
By submitting pieces to different verticals, I was able to make a lot of contacts within the HuffPost staff. I used my business savvy to play my position to the best of my ability. I wrote on every topic I could formulate an opinion on without incriminating myself. I got invited to speak on HuffPostLive multiple times. At first I treated HPL as a public access station. In the beginning stages of the site, everyone was finding their footing. Their production staff laughed at me when I told them I'm a whistleblower and left it off my on screen title. I felt insulted and decided to retaliate by fucking with their on air talent. To this day, I'm sure Alyona still has reservations about my sanity (or at the very least, my intelligence). It wasn't until last month that I noticed they were finally making a respectable product. Today, watching HuffPostLive is one of my favorite things to do during the week.
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I was in school. I had a job. The media was finally opening their eyes. Anonymous was opening my eyes to the atrocities and inequalities in the world. I was learning how to utilize my skills to assist with the movement. I finally felt comfortable that I was on the right track and would be able to beat the banks. Unfortunately my first piece for the HuffPost, an overview of the CFPB's proposed mortgage regulations, got me fired from my job. I was told labeling myself as an Occupy Activist was not in line with the political leanings of the firm. None of my work would matter if I couldn't pay my bills and ended up on the street. Desperate for money, I took a job with the only company that would hire a guy with my legal problems and credit history: a Scientology-owned company.
I know Scientology is dangerous, and I knew my affiliations with Anonymous wouldn't be looked upon kindly, but I needed to pay my rent and afford food. I figured I was already in deep enough shit so fuck it...adding another log to the fire couldn't possibly hurt. I gave the Scientologists all of my personal information and accepted the position. While working there, I found myself socializing with the Scientologists. I took the time to learn their perspective. The individual people themselves were no different than people I met from any other religious group. I spent the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 partying in the Scientology capital of the world. I lived among them like Jane Goodall with the chimps. One of these chimps was Matt Acker, a kid who idolized me for my position in the media and associations with Anonymous. He dreamed of a career in the media and asked if he could come with me out to California to "ride (my) coattails for the rest of (his) life." At the time, I didn't fully understand the dangers posed by the general public because of my position in the world so I told him that would be ok.
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Yoga,Van Dwelling, and Writing
By the start of 2013, I readjusted my plans. I realized my $9/hr job couldn't provide a sustainable lifestyle. I signed up for a yoga teacher certification training. I bought a van and moved out of my apartment to save enough money to move out of Florida and head to California, where the future of our society will be determined. I updated my resume with my work at the Huffington Post and used it to get paid work as a freelance writer. My time was divided between school, work, volunteering at the yoga studio, my yoga practice, renovating my van, writing, and lending my skills to Anonymous whenever I could.
Despite eventually being the target of occasional "random" stop and searches by the Clearwater PD, most notably on November 5 (Guy Fawkes Day) to search my backpack for my Anonymous mask attempting to entrap me via a sting operation, I once again felt comfortable that I found a way to move forward with my life, pay my bills, and beat the banks. I quickly built a name for myself as a writer and networked my way into meetings with national publications, including a shot at a position with XXL magazine, a publication I wanted to grace the pages of since Eminem's beef with Benzino and The Source when I was a kid. I was riding a high, but as my life normally goes, it wasn't destined to last...
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The Dog Tag Incident
On April 11, 2013, I accepted an invitation from Matt to hang out at his house and play some video games. Soon his friends arrived and we were all getting stoned. I remember Matt passing me the bong and the next thing I knew I had blacked out. What happened from that point isn't your business yet as it is only conjecture and guesses at this point, but it led to me being roughed up by the Clearwater Police and thrown in the back of a squad car with nothing but my shorts and iPhone. I adjusted the handcuffs and banged on the window to ask for air, leading the police officers to open the door and continue causing physical damage while I enjoyed the brief few seconds of fresh air. I was taken to Morton Plant Hospital, where I was violently removed from the squad car and forcefully strapped to a gurney, pulled into the emergency room, and admitted against my will under Florida's Baker Act.
While strapped to the gurney, a member of the hospital staff pulled out a needle to inject me with drugs. I calmly explained to the man taking my information that I'm afraid of needles and don't like drugs. I pleaded with them to not inject whatever drug was in that needle into me. I was told I have no choice and was drugged against my will. I was then put in a private room (still strapped to the gurney and unable to move) where 2 men stripped me, put my penis in a Tupperware container, and told me to either pee in the container or I would have a catheter shoved into my penis. I calmly explained to them that I've never in my entire life taken a piss while lying flat on my back, much less with another man holding my dick while another man watched. I asked if they could release one of my hands to allow me some semblance of control and was denied. I then asked if they could at least re-position me into a sitting position so I could produce the urine they needed. They reluctantly agreed.
I woke up the next morning hooked up to various monitoring machines. I was given breakfast and a psychiatric evaluation by a nurse. I answered all of his questions but was refused any answers to my own questions. I fell back asleep and woke up again in the afternoon to find lunch near my bed. I was evaluated by another member of the staff who again refused to answer any of my questions, but allowed me to detach myself from the machine to use the bathroom. I was then moved out into reception area where I was given my final evaluation by the psychiatrist on staff and cleared for release. I was given my phone and shorts along with a pair of socks and a shirt that had been donated to the hospital and told I was free to leave. Not understanding what happened, I texted Matt to ask for a ride back to his apartment complex so I could get my van. He called me back to inform me I wasn't welcome and to never contact him again.
I walked 2 miles with no shoes to another coworker's house who gave me a ride back to my van which was unlocked and had been sitting there all day while I was detained against my will. I found my laptop damaged, along with many of my other belongings. Some of my belongings, including a batch of freshly harvested marijuana I had and one of my dog tags, was missing. If you've ever seen a military dog tag, you know that the clasp doesn't just fall open. Someone had clearly stolen it. It has my name, social security number, blood type, and religious affiliation (No Rel Pref) engraved on it. It's akin to identity theft. I mustered up every bit of compassion I learned from my yoga training and contacted Matt to kindly ask for my belongings back. He responded with threats.
The next day (Saturday), I showed up to the Scientology owned business I worked for to work my weekend shift, but was unable to enter the building. I noticed a van of one of the Scientologist employees following me. I felt unsafe, so I left the area. On Sunday, I showed up to White Orchid for a chanting and meditation session with Ally, where I recounted some of the details of the previous day. Ally repeated the words I heard over and over since becoming a whistleblower: she told me to keep my head down so people won't judge me. I knew immediately my time with Ally was coming to an end. The next day my feeling was confirmed when I got an email from the owner of Ally's studio telling me I'm a danger to the students and I'm no longer welcome at the studio.
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Returning To Anonymous & Activating Homeland Security
I parked my van at St Petersburg College, where I was attending school to try and piece together what was going on. I lost everything I built in Florida and finally accepted that the only people I'll ever be able to trust are Anonymous and the media. I caught people following me. To this day I still don't know whether it's the banks, the government, or the Scientologists. Out of options, I took my story to social media, posting the phone numbers of the Clearwater PD, Morton Plant Hospital, and Matt Acker in an attempt to find answers and get my dog tag back so I could regain a sense of comfort.
In taking my story to the internet, the hive of Anonymous responded with messages of support. People were headed out to the SPC campus to assist me. This rubbed the government the wrong way, and I soon found myself surrounded by 5 oddly well-trained police officers. They took my iPhone, questioned me, and searched my van for weapons. When my phone was returned to me, I noticed the "police officer" searched through my email and left it on an email confirmation I received a week prior for a link I posted to my Facebook page of my HuffPostLive appearance from a week prior, where I gave a workable solution to the housing crisis. To mock the false bomb threat Bank of America filed against me to get me labeled a terrorist, I stated I'm dropping a bomb on HuffPostLive. I don't know if the "police officer" found the terminology as funny as I did, but he certainly went out of his way to show me he saw it. The officers had me dump the 1/2 ounce of marijuana I had in my van while they turned their backs, then they forced me to leave the parking lot before the Anons came to my aid.
I spent the next 3 days on the SPC campus, making sporadic movements and doubling back in order to catch people following and watching me. At various times throughout the week, I caught over a dozen people watching me. I had no way of knowing who they were, and still people were refusing to give me answers. At one point, a security guard who was shadowing me told me his cousin works for the Secret Service office in Tampa and that they had agents flown in that weekend. As soon as I received my last paycheck from the Scientologists and the refund of my teacher training deposit from Ally, I decided it was time to leave Florida.
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The trip from Florida to Arizona was filled with sights, sounds, and scenarios I never would've believed if I wasn't there to experience it for myself. I wish I could tell you everything that happened, but you wouldn't understand anyway. By the time I reached Houston, I was again stopped by 5 police officers. This time, they were much more friendly than the previous time in Florida. Despite their smiles, they tore up my van and confiscated my remaining marijuana, grinder, and a bowl I lost the prior week in Florida (with one officer even saying "Here's the pipe you lost last week").
Tired of being surrounded by uncertainty, I demanded to meet whoever is following me. The next morning, two random strangers introduced themselves to me. I followed them to a hidden area under a highway where we broke bread and got to know each other a little better. We traded pleasantries, and they were kind enough to show me their masks, gloves, and regale me with stories of their creative uses of duct tape and vans. Whenever my questions crossed a line, they reminded me there are some things in life I'd rather not know. I still don't know who they are or who exactly they work for, but I know they could have easily killed me or tortured me and left me there to die. That they didn't harm me and instead chose to hang out at least let me know that while my freedom is merely an illusion, there are powers watching my back.
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Moving On/Solving The Puzzle
It's been nearly a month since the fiasco in Florida that forced me to leave early. I still don't have any real answers, but I know I'm past the point of no return. I know the choices I made over the last 2 and a half years placed me in the center of a lot shit. I know I've seen behind a lot of curtains I had no business seeing behind. I know my name and information is on the tables of a lot of powerful people. I know my mission to change the world is working. I know I'm gaining traction with my nonviolent revolution. I know I have more power than I ever imagined possible...
I don't know what's going to happen, but now that I've had time to get my mind straight and deal with everything I've seen over the last month, I'm going to come out swinging. The rules may have changed, but the game is still the same.
I will not be swayed by fear. I will not keep my head down. I started my journey with the goal of taking down the largest bank in the US in order to arm my fellow citizens with the knowledge necessary to end the corruption that has plagued our society for as long as I can remember, and I will not fail.
Because We are Anonymous...
We are legion...
We do not forgive...
We do not forget...
Brian Penny (aka Versability) is a former business analyst at Bank of America turned whistleblower and freelance writer. He documents his experiences traveling, working with Anonymous, practicing yoga, and fighting the banks on his blog.
Brian is a frequent contributor to MainStreet.com, Lifehack, HardcoreDroid, and various other publications throughout the web.