Soon he realized the phones he was nabbing could be worth a lot more—if only he had a way to get inside them. Johnson said no one taught him the passcode trick, he just stayed up late one night fiddling with a phone and figured out how to use the passcode to unlock a bounty of protected services.
“That passcode is the devil,” he said. “It could be God sometimes—or it could be the devil.”
According to the Minneapolis Police Department’s arrest warrant, Johnson and the other 11 members of the enterprise allegedly accumulated nearly $300,000. According to him, it was likely more.
“I had a rush for large amounts at a time,” he said. “I just got too carried away.”
In March, Johnson, who had prior robbery and theft convictions, pleaded guilty to racketeering and was sentenced to 94 months. He told the judge he was sorry for what he did.
How he did it
Here’s how the nightly operation would go down, according to interviews with Johnson, law-enforcement officials and some of the victims:
Pinpoint the victim. Dimly lit and full of people, bars became his ideal location. College-age men became his ideal target. “They’re already drunk and don’t know what’s going on for real,” Johnson said. Women, he said, tended to be more guarded and alert to suspicious behavior.
Get the passcode. Friendly and energetic, that’s how victims described Johnson. Some told me he approached them offering drugs. Others said Johnson would tell them he was a rapper and wanted to add them on Snapchat. After talking for a bit, they would hand over the phone to Johnson, thinking he’d just input his info and hand it right back.