Fast Company

Is This Charlie Sheen's Social Media Guru?

He claims so. The weirdest new member of Charlie Sheen's digital entourage is a wedding photographer, paranormal investigator, and accused scam artist who has almost certainly never met the man at all. He seems to have mastered the modern art of shorting celebrity. But is Phillip Daggett-Brunelle #Winning? He responds to Fast Company's questions. And the plot thickens like #TigerBlood.

Phillip Daggett-Brunelle is a wedding photographer from New England. He is also, according to a press release on the sketchy-seeming free-press-release.com, Charlie Sheen's new "social networking & internet marketing guru." The press release purports to be an article originally in the Associated Press. It hardly follows AP style. Here's a representative sentence: "Brunelle can also be found on FaceBook at: http://www.facebook.com/phillip814 however he has maxed out the allowable FaceBook friends on his personal page, maybe a fan page coming soon for him too?"

The press release says that Sheen "has sought out a social netwokring [sic] and internet marketing guru, Phillip Brunelle, to keep his online presense [sic] growing strong and increasing his fans despite the downfall of being fired." (Being fired and Sheen's meltdown, in Daggett-Brunelle's world, are not the cause of Sheen's becoming a new Internet obsession, and present a threat to the embattled actor's following.) Daggett-Brunelle's job description is bizarrely specific:

"Two challenges already given to Phillip Brunelle are to 1) Begin a brand new twitter account (which Brunelle has done, and you can follow at: http://www.twitter.com/phillipbrunelle ) and he must get over 1MIL Twitter followers within a week and then 2) To start a wild-fire rumor online, which we should expect to be seeing soon, whether or not the rumor will be true or just a rumor is has not yet been released, but we will know for sure soon."

Daggett-Brunelle is hardly the first relatively unknown local trickster to hitching a ride on a shooting star as he flames out, but his use of social media to short Sheen's celebrity is noteworthy. He seems to have gotten the idea for his new self-appointed post from a tweet Charlie Sheen sent out yesterday, announcing that he was, indeed, looking for a new social media intern, for an 8-week paid rotation this summer: "Do you have #TigerBlood? Are you all about #Winning? Can you #PlanBetter than anyone else? If so, we want you on #TeamSheen as our social media #TigerBloodIntern!" reads the job description. (Sheen's tweet was itself paid for by Internships.com, the first fruits of Sheen's signing with Ad.ly last week. Sheen didn't write the tweet himself, reports the L.A. Times, though he did sign off on it.)

All of which was enough, apparently, to get Daggett-Brunelle's human blood pumping and to prompt him to start a new Twitter account.

So who is this guy, anyway? Daggett-Brunelle is a wedding photographer, paranormal investigator, and suspected scam artist from New England. According to the Herald News, in 2009, the 29-year-old Brunelle (né Daggett; he took the name of his male partner, and his Facebook page uses a hyphenated version) claimed to have won the lottery twice in one day, including a $1 million jackpot.

Soon this feel-good story began to unravel. The paper identified a string of past frauds, incidents of false heroism, and frivolous complaints, including the following:

Brockton police charged him in September with making a hoax phone call claiming there was a fatal gunshot wound victim, creating a vast search that turned up nothing. That incident came eight months after he was heralded for reportedly using a CPR maneuver to save an infant that swallowed a small light bulb.

In November 2006, he filed charges with city police saying he became ill from eating a drug-laced taco at Taco Bell, 155 Mariano S. Bishop Blvd. He sent e-mails to media outlets describing how an hour after eating the taco “I started feeling strange, light-headed and some cramping in my stomach.”

2½ years earlier in 2004, he hired a lawyer, filed a complaint and sought compensation after saying he became sick from food at the McDonald’s on President Avenue.

“I want to get my name established out there,” he told the Herald News, in an article that questioned his motivations following the supposed lottery win.

In fact, it seems he didn't win the jackpot at all (he may have won $1,000, though; it's a tad unclear). He did, however, regain the attention of a woman who had previously hired him to take photos of her wedding--photos he charged her $650 for but never delivered on.

Later, according to this blog, Daggett-Brunelle ran another apparent scam using free-press-release.com, claiming that editors at examiner.com were touting a new paranormal website he had founded, Mass Most Haunted. "Philip Brunelle Investigates The Most Haunted Places In Massacusetts. Real Ghosts & Paranoraml Activity Caught on Camera," promised promotioanl materials for the site. The operator of the blog pitched by Brunelle called the attention of actual examiner.com editors to the email, which they denied having come from them.

"if ANYONE can ever help me with a donation, whether it's a few dollars or a few hundred," wrote Brunelle at the time, "every dollar will help me to get more investigation equipment, to maintain the website, and to have the money needed to travel to, and stay at haunted places. Just click on the donation logo on any page of www.MassMostHaunted.com to help. I'm also looking for advertisers, IF YOU ARE LOOKING TO ADVERTISE ANYTHING AT ALL, EMAIL ME ON THE SITE. "

So, is this guy Charlie Sheen's new social media guru? We report, you decide. In the meantime, anyone looking for a wedding photographer?

Update: Daggett-Brunelle writes in: "I don't know how word got out about this, or how people are talking, but I will roll with it." Though he claims not to have issued the press release, he says of the new gig that, "Yes, this is true." He replied to Charlie's tweet yesterday. "I gave him my 75 character pitch that he couldn't refuse." Charlie confirmed a list of PR gigs Brunelle claimed to have had in the past, says Brunelle, "and then got back to me later yesterday to offer me a position on his new #WINNING team." He's confident that he has "resources needed to drown some choice people in Charlie's #TigerBlood!!" and while "there really is only so much that I can reveal at this point in time... but just know that there are BUZZILLION$ of plans to be executed by Charlie's #WINNING team in the near future."

Behold, then, a man who can fell a tiger in 75 characters.

Update 2: Daggett-Brunelle also wrote to comment on the allegations against him spread across the web. None have resulted in criminal charges, he claims. "I'm okay with the bad press against me because I have a clear conscience knowing that I'm not a criminal, not a scam or con-artist and anyone with an ounce of common sense would, or should, know that if any of the negative things said about me online were true that I would have been in jail ages ago, which I never have been."

Daggett-Brunelle also has some chilling thoughts on celebrity today. "While I may not look like a saint in the public's eyes, and I'm nowhere near perfect, at least I have been... and still am... in the public's eyes. If I can do this for myself being an everyday ordinary person, than [sic] think of what I can do for someone who is already a public figure." Are you listening, Charlie?

"People can look down on me for it," Daggett-Brunelle goes on, "and they may even believe everything they see written about me, but I'm not the only one to blame here...society is also to blame for living for the gossip, good and bad.....Maybe it makes them feel better about themselves knowing that someone else's problems are far worse then their own, or maybe they are just drama seekers...but either way it makes them no better than the people they are spending their lives reading about or watching on television who are obviously seeking drama and attention too."

We are all Charlie Sheen.

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3 Comments

  • DJ Shrope

    I would wait to confirm this from Sheen himself before making the connection between him and Daggett-Brunelle. As a journalist you should have concluded, "why would CS start a new twitter account?" He has all the followers he needs on @charliesheen. I think the guy just tweeted his pitch via internships.com and you ran with it without knowing anyone who pitches to that site can tweet their pitch.

    First to publish a story isn't always good unless you have your facts. Wait for CS to make the annoucement before you make connections. We have a hard enough time taking news on the net seriously with out FastCompany showing their ignorance. Thanks...5 minutes to read the article and I will never get that time back.

  • LISA.M.D.

    Interesting, but have you considered the fact that these alleged "RUMORS" about Brunelle, whether true situations or not, could very well be the reason that Sheen has sought him out should he indeed be trying to accomplish such a mission with 'rumor control'? What better person than someone with direct experience, even if they were the brunt of the mixed widespread publicity which has obviously gone viral for an average person... imagine what he could do for Sheen. Also, if Sheen hasn't confirmed, nor denied Brunelle working with him, this very well could be a situation where Sheen wants to keep things low-key. But again, interesting read.