Charles Edward Littlejohn, an IRS contractor, has confessed to pilfering 15 years’ worth of sensitive tax returns from thousands of filers. Littlejohn’s objective in leaking the documents was believed to be an attempt to sway the 2020 election in favor of then-candidate Joe Biden. He abused his access to IRS records to obtain tax returns, including those of then-President Donald Trump. Littlejohn then provided the stolen records to The New York Times, which published a story titled “Long-concealed records show Trump’s chronic losses and years of tax avoidance” just five weeks before the election. He also leaked the data to ProPublica, resulting in a series of over 50 stories revealing confidential information about prominent taxpayers. The leaked information was framed in a way that promoted legislation to raise taxes and regulate individual retirement accounts.
The scale of the privacy breach involved numerous individuals, leading U.S. District Judge Ana C. Reyes to waive the Crime Victims’ Rights Act notification provision due to the impracticability of notifying all potential victims. The leaked tax returns affected thousands of individuals, who may never know their information was compromised unless they stumble upon a webpage buried deep within the Department of Justice website.
Despite the magnitude of the privacy breach, Littlejohn has been offered a deal by prosecutors in the Department of Justice that guarantees he will not spend much time, if any, behind bars. The maximum penalty Judge Reyes, appointed by President Biden, could impose is five years in prison. However, sentencing guidelines may reduce that to a few months or no prison time at all.