An Internal Revenue Service (IRS) consultant has been charged for allegedly stealing and leaking the tax returns of thousands of wealthy Americans, including one unnamed high-ranking government official believed to be former President Donald Trump.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the charges against Charles Littlejohn, a 38-year-old Washington resident, on Friday.
Mr. Littlejohn, who was employed as a government contractor at the IRS, stands accused of a multi-faceted scheme to steal and disseminate confidential tax return data between 2018 and 2020. His actions allegedly involved not only a "high-ranking government official," cryptically known as "Public Official A," but also thousands of the nation's most affluent individuals.
The charges may, for the first time, link the tax return information disclosures of some of the nation's richest men and President Trump by liberal organizations ProPublica and the New York Times.
“While working at the IRS as a government contractor, [Mr. Littlejohn] stole tax return information associated with a high-ranking government official (Public Official A) and disclosed it to a news organization (News Organization 1),” the DOJ said.
“Littlejohn also stole tax return information for thousands of the nation’s wealthiest individuals, and disclosed this tax return information to another news organization (News Organization 2).”
While President Trump's name, the names of the wealthy taxpayers, and the two news organizations aren't disclosed in the court documents, the events described match the timeframe of disclosures by ProPublica in 2021, and The New York Times in 2020.
The previous fall, in September 2020, the New York Times reported that it had obtained the 2016 and 2017 tax records of President Trump, who was in office at the time.
In 2021, Biden administration officials informed Congress of an ongoing investigation into the leak. Mr. Littlejohn's charge now marks the first visible progress in this two-year-long, previously undisclosed inquiry.
The extensive breaches disclosed by ProPublica took IRS officials and lawmakers by surprise. The outlet never named its source, but the volume of the disclosures suggested origins within the IRS. This was now confirmed on Friday.
"We have no comment on today’s announcement from the DOJ," a ProPublica spokesperson said in a statement to The Epoch Times. "As we’ve said previously, ProPublica doesn’t know the identity of the source who provided this trove of information on the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans."
ProPublica has previously said that the information the outlet received included more than "just tax returns." It included "stock trades" and other "information that is sent to the IRS about financial activities.”
A New York Times spokesperson declined to comment.
The Epoch Times contacted Mr. Littlejohn's attorney, Lisa Manning, the IRS; and President Trump's campaign for comment.
In a statement to multiple outlets, IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said, "Any disclosure of taxpayer information is unacceptable."
The case sheds light on a far-reaching breach of privacy potentially involving a former president, disfavored by the legacy media establishment and the nation's wealthiest individuals. It also raises critical questions about the safeguards in place to protect the privacy of taxpayers and the potential consequences for those who breach that trust.
Mr. Littlejohn faces a single count of unauthorized disclosure of tax returns and return information. If convicted, the charge could result in a maximum prison sentence of five years. The charge was filed as an "information," typically used when the defendant is expected to plead guilty.
He was unmasked by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, a federal agency entrusted with investigating alleged wrongdoing within the IRS. However, how agency investigators identified Mr. Littlejohn is not disclosed in court documents, which mention activities in northern West Virginia, where the IRS has a major data center in Martinsburg.