Taxes

IRS Contractor Pleads Guilty To Stealing And Disclosing Tax Return Information

An IRS contractor, Charles Littlejohn, 38, of Washington, D.C., has pleaded guilty to disclosing tax return information without authorization.

Littlejohn was initially charged on information on Sept. 29, 2023, with one count of disclosing tax return information without authorization. Generally, being charged on information means that a defendant has pleaded guilty and waived the right to an indictment—that’s what appears to have happened here.

According to court documents, from about 2017 to 2021, Littlejohn was employed as a government contractor for an unnamed consulting firm that serviced public and private clients. As part of his job, he worked on contracts that the firm had obtained through the IRS. The returns and return information were disclosed to Littlejohn for “purposes of tax administration.”

From 2018 to 2020, Littlejohn stole tax returns and return information associated with a person referred to in court documents as “Public Official A.” Public Official A is not named in court documents but is widely assumed to be former President Donald Trump.

Littlejohn disclosed the tax information associated with Public Official A to a media outlet only described as “News Organization 1” in documents. In September 2020, News Organization 1 published a series of articles about Public Official A’s tax returns. Based on the timing and nature of its reporting, that appears to be The New York Times
NYT
.

Court documents also reveal that Littlejohn turned over returns and return information dating back more than 15 years covering thousands of the nation’s wealthiest people to “News Organization 2.” News Organization 2, which is not specifically named in the charges, published over 50 articles using the stolen data. That appears to match reporting by Pro Publica in 2021.

Pro Publica did not not have any comment regarding the plea hearing, and The New York Times did not immediately responded to a request for comment.

Littlejohn accessed the returns on an IRS database after using broad search parameters designed to conceal the true purpose of his queries. He then evaded IRS protocols established to detect and prevent large downloads or uploads from IRS devices or systems before saving the tax returns to multiple personal storage devices, including an iPod.

“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,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “In every case, the Department of Justice is committed to following the facts wherever they lead and holding accountable those who violate our laws.”

“The unauthorized theft and disclosure of tax return information by government employees or contractors is a serious breach of the public’s trust,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Department will hold accountable those who illegally exploit their access to sensitive personal information.”

Littlejohn pleaded guilty to unauthorized disclosure of tax return and return information—a violation of section 7213(a)(1) of the tax code. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 29, 2024. He faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

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