The first alleged scammer we are going to discuss in this blog is Brian Johnson aka the Liver King.
He is known for promoting what he calls an “ancestral lifestyle”, which includes eating large amounts of raw organs and meat, and he recommends eating liver daily.
Brian preaches his nine “ancestral tenets”: sleep, eat, move, shield, connect, cold, sun, fight, bond.
He has around 3.5m followers on Tiktok, 1.8m on Instagram and around 250k subscribers on youtube.
As of May 2022, I believe Brian was 45, so he is likely around 46 now.
The Liver King says he eats about a pound of raw liver each day, a quantity that he says is “way too much” for most organ novices, who should start with three ounces, two times a week. He says he can manage the massive dose of folate, iron, and vitamins A and B because he understands the science behind it. As he puts it on his website: “I’m not a hospital, I’m not a doctor, this is not medical advice. I do, however, have a degree in biochemistry.” He has also eaten bone marrow, tongue and testicles. He said that his own testicles are strengthened when he eats animal testicles. ‘Vegetables don’t have the raw material required to produce a healthy set of testicles. Animal testicles do have everything required to produce and support and strengthen them.’
The Liver King’s followers are called ‘primals’. He has some fairly high profile followers including MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes who tweeted ‘Guys, Liver King is in NYC and I’m losing my mind.’
Joe Rogan has also discussed the Liver King. However, his views were not so complimentary. He said ‘He’s got an ass filled with steroids, is what that guy’s got.’
The Liver King responded to that claim in an interview with GQ. ‘I don’t touch the stuff’. “The question has always been, ‘Do you take steroids? Do you take [performance enhancing drugs]?’ The answer to that is no. I’ve always told the truth, I still tell the truth.” He also said that he was ‘grateful to Joe Rogan for bringing me into his ecosystem.’ He also said he would love to go on Rogan’s podcast one day.
Just for some insight into his life and family, Brian now lives in an 8,300 square foot Spanish revival style mansion in Austin, Texas with his wife Barbara and their two sons, Stryker (around 16) and Rad (around 14). Barbara and Brian call their sons ‘Savage Liver Boys’. The family also have four Dobermans. They met in 2004 when they were both snowboarding. “I was good at being a man before I met her, but she made me a good man,” he said.
Brian originally enrolled in medical school, but he dropped out during orientation. He then went to work for a pharma company.
Barbara is successful in her own right. She trained as a dentist and later started her own dental clinic.
She eventually closed that down and started working with Brian.
Their companies are called Ancestral Supplements and The Fittest. Their companies imported supplements and meat products from countries like Australia and New Zealand. These companies were created after their sons had allergies and were frequently in hospital. Barbara and Brian alleged that after they adopted a primitive lifestyle and began eating uncooked meat, their lives changed.
“We cut out all the processed foods, we cut out all the liquid calories, the seed oils. We just went to whole foods, chiefly liver and bone marrow. Anything that made sense like, Yeah it’s ancestral. Within a couple of days, the rings around their eyes went away,” he said. “They had this new vibrancy, this new energy, this new electricity. You didn’t know they were capable of living like this, with such joy and laughter.”
Brian claims that their businesses bring in more than $100m per year.
The couple have converted the hot tub on their property into a 36 degree ice plunge pool. They have also put a sparring ring in their living room for their sons to take boxing classes in.
The family do not sleep on mattresses – they sleep on hard wooden slats in an attempt to mimic how cave men lived.
Brian has also told the media that he no longer responds to his birth name because he ‘ripped open a cage and ate Brian Johnson. I was in New York City and some guy said, Oh my God, it’s Brian Johnson! And I’m like, who the eff is Brian Johnson?” he said.
Brian has said in interviews that when he was growing up, he was a small, weak kid who got pushed around at school. His father died when Brian was young and he lived with his mother in San Antonio. He told GQ that here was the time he was in sixth grade, and a guy named Felix hocked a loogie in his hand and smacked Brian in the face. Then the time, a couple of years later, when he came to school with brand new shoes, feeling cool for once, someone stole them from his locker during gym class, and he had to walk home barefoot.
When he was in middle school, he started working out and everything apparently changed for him. One of his mother’s boyfriends had weights and he started lifting. He said that when he went to the gym, he felt like he could ‘control all outcomes.’ After he worked on his physique, he said a classmate called him ‘Marky Mark’ and that remark changed his life forever. “ I realized other guys wanted to be like me. And for the first time in my life, girls started to take notice of me.”
Brian started posting about his life and workouts in 2021. He said it was a ‘very rocky start.’
Their main formula seems to have consisted of basically meat and weights. There is one exercise he posts about called The Barbarian which involves holding a 70 lb (30kg) kettlebell in each hand, strapping 20 lb (9kg) ankle weights on each leg, and also putting 70lbs of weight in a backpack. And then, you drag 120 lbs of weight on a sled behind you for an entire mile.
He did the Barbarian across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York in 2022. He has said that he wants to do exercise at landmarks such as the Great Wall of China as well as the Taj Mahal.
On Stryker’s 15th birthday, he completed the Barbarian. Barbara was against it but Brian was furious at her view. “I was like, I can’t believe you don’t believe in him. I don’t care if he has to go out and it takes him two days. I’ll bring him food. I’ll bring him his pillow. Whatever he’s gotta do, he’s gonna do this thing.’ Stryker completed the exercise in 2 hours.
Journalists have asked Brian about his relationship with his kids. “Somebody asked me the other day, hey, what if your kids hate you when they grow up? I said I don’t mind. I would rather they hate me than hate themselves.”
In December 2022, the Liver King’s empire possibly started to crumble.
A YouTuber named Derek who has a channel called ‘More Plates More Dates’ made a video about Brian.
The video was titled ‘The Liver King Lie’. The video is an hour long and it goes into emails that Brian had sent to a bodybuilding coach in 2021, before the official launch of the Liver King brand. In the emails, Brian spoke about his plans to get a million social media followers in a few months by pushing his body to the limit, using human growth hormones. The hormones were costing him $11,000 per month.
After this video was released, Brian made his own video where he admitted that he did in fact use steroids.
“Before social media, I was rich and anonymous and after social media, I’m still rich, but no longer anonymous. I never expected this kind of exposure,” he says.
“Yes, I’ve done steroids. And yes, I’m on steroids, monitored and managed by a trained hormone clinician.”
Brian also wrote a message to Rolling Stone about the situation. “In a weird way, I’m grateful for the recent events that have shed light on this complicated-as-fuck topic,” he continued.
By the end of December 2022, a $25 million class action lawsuit had been filed in New York against Brian.
The suit names Brian as well as two of his supplement companies: Ancestral Supplements and workout-focused The Fittest. The former offers products like MOFO: Male Optimization Formula, while the latter sells The Fittest Liver King Bar.
“This action arises from an elaborate, well-orchestrated marketing and advertising scheme,” reads the suit, alleging Brian deceived and misled “vulnerable and health-conscious consumers.”
The suit calls this approach “cult-like” and “implausible,” while referring to a raw meat diet as “dangerous and life-threatening.”
The suit continues: “Liver King’s ongoing denial of using any steroid or other performance-enhancing drug, and misrepresentations concerning his alleged adherence to the ancestral tenets, further induced consumers to trust and rely on the efficacy of the ancestral tenets and purchase the products.”
It is being filed on behalf of anyone who has ordered any of Brian’s products.
The next scammer we are going to discuss is Madison Russo. Madison is a 19 year old from Iowa who is alleged of faking cancer in order to steal more than $37k from GoFundMe donations.
Madison, known as Maddie, was ballsy. Wow. There is an October 2022 article from The North Scott Press in which Maddie goes into detail about her cancer.
It was Thursday, Feb. 10, and Maddie Russo was sitting in her accounting class at St. Ambrose University. Her cell phone buzzed, she looked at the screen, and had no idea her life was about to change forever.
Now, a little more than eight months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, the 2021 North Scott graduate’s world was rocked to its very core.
After learning last week that a football-sized tumor is attached to her spine, Maddie is trying to make sense of what her life is going to look like.
Yes, you read that right. Maddie, a lifelong Eldridge resident, seems to be in the fight of her young life, and she’s just 19 years old.
“Life has been crazy,” she said last week. “It’s like a Catch-22. I can’t win for losing. I feel like I’ve been rocked to my soul, and right now, everything is kind of uncertain. I just want to know my game plan, and right now, I don’t know what that is.
“Of course, every day can’t be sunshine and rainbows, but you can’t just choose to be mad at the cancer. It just happens to people. If you stay depressed, and in a dark space, I feel like your body will never get better.”
Maddie’s cancer journey began last winter, two years after being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which means the pancreas produces little or no insulin.
In the article, Maddie goes into detail about her symptoms. She said she felt ‘just a little bit off’ and said she had fevers, bloody stools and nosebleeds.
She also spoke about getting the test results that showed she had cancer.
“It was early in the morning, and I had been anxiously awaiting these test results,” said Maddie. “My phone rang, and it said, ‘Iowa City Oncology.’ I stepped out of the classroom and took the call.
“They told me they had found a mass on my pancreas, and that I had Stage 2 pancreatic cancer. I was terrified, and I definitely still am. I was in shock. I didn’t think it could be true. I’m so young, and I wondered how this could happen. I went through all the emotions, and I was pretty numb.
“I remember hanging up the phone, and I was a mess. I was literally bawling, but somehow I ended up getting the courage to wipe away my tears and went back into class, which now, when I think about it, was pretty crazy.”
Maddie told the media that she had an 11% survival rate for five years and that had undergone 15 rounds of oral chemo and 90 rounds of radiation. Miraculously, her tumor shrank and responded to treatment but then she was diagnosed with leukaemia.
Despite all of this, she managed to finish the semester with a 3.85GPA, as well as get an internship.
“They gave me a slim 11-percent survival rate for five years before this latest tumor was discovered,” she continued. “Eleven percent. At 19 years old, I don’t know if I will live to see the day I graduate from college, get married, or become a mom. In the meantime, I will fight.”
She also spoke about support she received, including from the Ohl Strong Foundation, which was established in memory of Dr. Brent Ohl, by his wife, Peggy, after he lost a battle with pancreatic cancer in 2016.
“We’ve always known Peggy (Ohl),” said Maddie. “She and my dad shared the same birthday and grew up together. When Peggy found out about me, she immediately reached out, and I received a whole package of support materials, including $500 in gift cards.
“Immediately, I was overwhelmed with what the foundation gave. It was nice to know somebody in the community was actively advocating for a cure, and I know since they went through it firsthand with Brent, it was important to them to turn their hardship into helping other people.”
So this article is from October 2022. By January 2023, Maddie’s lies had been exposed.
At 6pm on January 11, police received a report that said Maddie had taken money from more than 439 donors, which included businesses, local cancer foundations and private citizens. By January 19, a GFM for her had raised $37303.
Police learned that Madison had been a guest speaker for several events under false pretences.
She had also posted photos on social media of medical equipment on her body. Medical professionals saw the images and came forward to report the ‘terrible life-threatening inaccuracies’ of the placement of the equipment. The photos had also been taken inside Maddie’s apartment and not in a medical facility.
She had a TikTok that has now been deleted but in the clip she spoke about how she had been able to not lose her hair. “It just comes down to my brand of chemo, which is oral chemo,” she said in the video. “I got really lucky with that.
Maddie is also accused of stealing photos from the social media of cancer patients and passing them off as her own.
Police looked into her medical records and found that she was never treated for any cancer or tumors.
Court records show police seized multiple items from Maddie’s apartment, including:
A gray 2023 Kia Sportage
A brown paper bag with medical supplies
An IV pole with a feeding pump filled with cotton balls
2 boxes of transparent dressing
Pills for nausea in the name of a relative
After all this came out, GoFundMe released a statement:
“GoFundMe has a zero-tolerance policy for misuse of our platform and cooperates with law enforcement investigations of those accused of wrongdoing.
“GoFundMe’s Giving Guarantee offers donors a full refund in the rare case when something isn’t right; this is the first and only donor protection guarantee in the fundraising industry. Donors can file a claim here: hwww.gofundme.com/contact/suggest/donor.”
Maddie was arrested on January 23, 2023 for theft by means of deception, a class C felony, according to an Eldridge Police Department press release. Iowa law states that a class C felony is punishable by up to 10 years in jail as well as fines ranging between $1,000 and $10,000.
She was released on $10k bond and her arraignment was set for March 2 at 11am.
In early February, police seized over $33k from the bank accounts of Maddie and a family member named Peggy Russo.
SOURCE LIST –
CLIPS USED IN THE PODCAST EPISODE