A former IRS contractor accused of leaking former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and disclosing tax return information for some of the nation’s wealthiest people pleaded guilty Thursday.
Charles Littlejohn, 38, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty Thursday to disclosing tax return information without authorization. He faces up to five years in prison at a sentencing hearing set for Jan. 29, 2024
Littlejohn, while working at the IRS as a contractor, stole tax return information associated with Trump and others. Littlejohn accessed tax returns associated with Trump on an IRS database “after using broad search parameters designed to conceal the true purpose of his queries,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He then evaded IRS protocols to detect and prevent large downloads or uploads from its systems.
Prosecutors said Littlejohn then saved the tax returns to multiple personal storage devices, including an iPod, before contacting a news outlet. Between around August 2019 and October 2019, Littlejohn provided the news outlet with the tax return information associated with Trump. Littlejohn then stole additional tax return information related to Trump and provided it to the same news organization, which is not named in the indictment.
In September 2020, The New York Times published a series of articles about Trump’s returns.
A spokesperson for The New York Times said: “We remain concerned when whistleblowers who provide information in the public interest are prosecuted.”
“The Times’s reporting on this topic played an important role in helping the public understand the financial ties and tax strategies of a sitting president – information that has long been seen as central to the knowledge that voters should have about the leader of our government and the candidates for that high office.”
The Justice Department said it was a “serious breach of the public’s trust.”
“The unauthorized theft and disclosure of tax return information by government employees or contractors is a serious breach of the public’s trust,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement. “The Department will hold accountable those who illegally exploit their access to sensitive personal information.”
In July and August 2020, prosecutors said Littlejohn separately stole tax return information for thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people, again evading IRS detection. In November 2020, Littlejohn disclosed this tax return information to another unnamed news organization, which published more than 50 articles using the stolen data. Littlejohn then obstructed the forthcoming investigation into his conduct by deleting and destroying evidence of his disclosures, according to prosecutors.
ProPublica published a series of articles on wealthy taxpayers during the same time frame.
“By using his role as a government contractor to gain access to private tax information, steal that information, and disclose it publicly, Charles Littlejohn broke federal law and betrayed the public’s trust,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.