On Friday, the Justice Department announced it had arrested Internal Revenue Service (IRS) consultant Charles Littlejohn in connection to the leaking of tax information on thousands of taxpayers, including former President Donald Trump, to news outlets.
According to court documents, between 2018 and 2020 while working as a contractor for the IRS, Littlejohn allegedly stole tax return information for thousands of the nation's wealthiest people dating back more than 15 years.
"He thereafter disclosed the tax information associated with Public Official A to News Organization 1, and the other tax information to News Organization 2," the documents continue, "Both News organizations published numerous articles describing the tax information they obtained from the Defendant."
A person familiar with the charges confirmed to Politico that "Public Official A" refers to Donald Trump. While the news agencies referenced were not confirmed, The New York Times published its report on then-President Trump's Tax reports on September 27, 2020, and Pro Publica published an article titled "The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax" on June 8, 2021.
The charges have put IRS safeguards back into the spotlight, with some questioning how a breach like this could occur, and pushing the IRS to make sure it doesn't happen again. IRS commissioner Danny Werfel said in a statement, "Any disclosure of taxpayer information is unacceptable."
"The IRS has put in place new protocols and protections that tightened security, and our aggressive work in this critical area continues in order to protect the tax and financial information of taxpayers," he added.
The Senate Finance Committee's top Republican, Senator Mike Crapo of Idaho noted, "While many questions remain, at the very least, IRS guardrails failed to prevent this brazen breach of taxpayer rights."
"It goes without saying that resolving these and other ongoing security issues at the IRS, as well as identifying and making whole the individuals impacted by this breach, must be the IRS’s highest priority," he added.
The Justice Department said Littlejohn faces up to five years in prison for violation of Title 26 of the United States Code, Section 7213(a)(1).
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