[Joe Frazier Photo from Portland, OR, USA, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons]

Thief Who Stole Trump, Bezos, Musk Tax Returns Gets 5 Years

A former Internal Revenue Service contractor has been sentenced to five years in jail for leaking tax records related to Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. 

The leak likely undermined the former president’s attempt at winning a second term in 2020.

In October, Charles Littlejohn pleaded guilty to abusing his job at the IRS “by unlawfully disclosing thousands of Americans’ federal tax returns and other private financial information to multiple news organizations.” 

“A free press and public engagement with the media are critical to any healthy democracy, but stealing and leaking private, personal tax information strips individuals of the legal protection of their most sensitive data,” prosecutors stated in their court filing recommending the accused receive the maximum sentence.

Littlejohn leaked the information to two news outlets and deleted the documents from his IRS-assigned laptop before returning it and covered the rest of his digital tracks by deleting places where he initially stored the information, according to CNN.

Judge Ana Reyes highlighted the gravity of the crime, saying multiple times that it amounted to an attack against the US and its legal foundation.

“What you did in attacking the sitting president of the United States was an attack on our constitutional democracy,” Reyes said. “We’re talking about someone who … pulled off the biggest heist in IRS history.”

The judge compared Littlejohn’s actions to those of the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack, noting that, “your actions were also a threat to our democracy.”

“It engenders the same fear that January 6 does,” Reyes added.

Littlejohn’s defense attorneys had aimed for a prison term of eight to 18 months. They claimed that “he originally acted out of a sense of moral duty, but soon came to understand that his conduct was morally wrong. Instead of saving the tax system, his actions had undermined the IRS, breached the public trust, and violated the privacy of thousands of American taxpayers.”

Littlejohn’s change of heart came after it was revealed he learned about the investigation.

The Washington Post writes that “news organizations published reports showing how Trump and the richest Americans for years paid little or no federal taxes. U.S. District Judge Ana C. Reyes, who handed down Littlejohn’s sentence, emphasized at his plea hearing in October that “there will be serious consequences for this illegal act.” Regardless of Littlejohn’s motivations, the judge said, ‘people taking the law into their own hands is unacceptable.’

Justice Department officials said Littlejohn’s disclosures were unprecedented in U.S. history. In court filings, they described how Littlejohn closely studied the IRS systems he would later breach with sophisticated digital techniques meant to hide his tracks. Rather than entering search terms such as ‘Trump’ into an agency database, Littlejohn used broad parameters “designed to conceal the true purpose of his queries,’ U.S. officials said. Littlejohn learned that IRS protocols could block large downloads from the agency’s systems, but in November 2018, he ‘exploited a loophole’ by sending the data he found to a private website he had set up, according to the Justice Department.

He then transferred the data onto portable storage devices, including an Apple iPod he had outfitted as a personal hard drive, prosecutors said. For the ProPublica leak, Littlejohn uploaded reams of tax information to a private website using ‘two virtual machines (essentially simulated versions of physical computers),’ which he destroyed shortly after the data transfers, according to prosecutors.”

The leak of the former president’s taxes came in the fall of 2020 and became a focal point of Biden’s closing message against Trump that November. 

At the time, The New York Times wrote, “As former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his surrogates make their closing arguments in battleground states stressed by economic hardship amid the pandemic, they often focus on one number: $750.

That’s the amount President Trump paid in federal income taxes in 2016 and again in 2017, a recent New York Times investigation found. And as Mr. Biden accuses Mr. Trump of not doing enough to help working families, he and his allies have held up the president’s income tax bill as a potent symbol of the inequities they seek to remedy in the American tax system.

‘Why should a firefighter, an educator, a nurse, a cop, pay at a higher tax rate, which you do, than a major multibillion-dollar corporation?’ Mr. Biden asked in Iowa on Friday. ‘Why should you pay more taxes than Donald Trump, who paid $750?’

Mr. Biden’s running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, weighed in during her debate in early October: ‘When I first heard about it, I literally said, you mean $750,000?’ Biden supporters like Senator Bernie Sanders have also raised the issue, while Priorities USA Action, the largest Democratic super PAC, has run Facebook ads in English and Spanish highlighting the figure.”

This article originally appeared on New Conservative Post. Used with Permission.

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