Ex-IRS Contractor Who Leaked Trump’s Tax Returns Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison
Ex-IRS Contractor Who Leaked Trump’s Tax Returns Sentenced to 5 Years in Prison

By Sam Dorman and Caden Pearson

WASHINGTON—A former contractor for the IRS was sentenced to five years in prison on Jan. 29 for leaking tax information associated with thousands of individuals, including former President Donald Trump.

Charles Littlejohn, 38, pleaded guilty in October 2023 to one count of unauthorized disclosure of tax returns and return information. He leaked President Trump’s information to The New York Times in 2019 and shared data on some of the wealthiest Americans with ProPublica in 2020. His crime, U.S. District Judge Ana Reyes said, was the “biggest heist” in IRS history. His sentence included $5,000 in fines and community service.

“It cannot be open season on our elected officials,” Judge Reyes said before adding that judges had a duty to make that clear. She later noted that Mr. Littlejohn purposefully sought his job at least in part to leak tax information.

Judge Reyes began the hearing in Washington by lending her “sympathy” for Mr. Littlejohn while accusing him of perpetrating an “attack” on the nation’s constitutional democracy.

“He targeted the sitting president of the United States of America and that is exceptional by any measure,” she told Mr. Littlejohn’s attorney. She added that in targeting President Trump, Mr. Littlejohn targeted the office of president.

Judge Reyes said she would go beyond sentencing guidelines, adding that his offense covered the personal information and tax information of a substantial number of individuals, as well as risking nonmonetary harm. She also scrutinized the plea deal, stating she had “no words” for the fact that he only faced one count.

House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee had sent Judge Reyes a letter on Jan. 23, requesting the maximum sentence, while criticizing the Justice Department (DOJ) for not charging Mr. Littlejohn with additional counts.

The letter cited Mr. Littlejohn’s plea deal, in which he acknowledged that he “willfully obstructed or impeded, or attempted to obstruct or impede, the administration of justice with respect to the investigation of his offenses.” It also noted that he engaged in “two separate acts related to misappropriation of taxpayer information.”

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) was among those whose tax returns were leaked. He offered a victim statement in which he criticized Mr. Littlejohn’s conduct and suggested he got the “plea deal of the century.”

President Trump’s attorney previously offered a statement on his behalf. According to CNN, she suggested that Mr. Littlejohn’s actions may have led to President Trump losing votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Mr. Littlejohn offered a statement in which he apologized to the court, the government, Mr. Scott, and others hurt by his actions.

“I alone am responsible for this crime,” he said in the courtroom.

Mr. Littlejohn added that he acted out of a “sincere and misguided belief” that he was serving the “public interest,” but “systematically violated” the privacy of thousands.

‘Misguided Idealism’

In a 15-page filing, prosecutors pushed for the maximum statutory sentence of five years in prison, arguing that Mr. Littlejohn’s betrayal of the public trust “merits significant punishment.”

Mr. Littlejohn’s attorney, Lisa Manning, requested a lighter sentence than the DOJ sought, noting that he had no criminal history and believed he was “serving the public interest.”

“Mr. Littlejohn is 38 years old, a first-time offender with a commendable past who committed this offense not for personal gain, not out of personal malice, but out of a belief that his violation of law would serve the public interest,” his sentencing memo read.

His attorney attempted to portray him as someone well-respected by friends, but engaged in conduct that was “the product not only of his misguided idealism but of life experience that led him to treat each day as if it were his last.”

When Ms. Manning argued that her client’s conduct wasn’t done out of political animus, Judge Reyes interjected, “Of course he did.”

According to Mr. Littlejohn’s sentencing memo, he “made up his mind” about leaking to the NY Times after an unexpected diagnosis for his father and a NY Times opinion piece titled, “Everyone’s Income Taxes Should Be Public.”  Similarly, Mr. Littlejohn’s attorney said he was concerned about “systemic inequality” and influenced by Emmanuel Saez’s book “Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay.”

“It had a profound impact on Mr. Littlejohn’s worldview,” his sentencing memo reads. “While the book suggested solutions to this inequality, Mr. Littlejohn feared that none would be achieved without robust public engagement with the topic.”

‘Above the Law’

The DOJ in its sentencing memo argued that Mr. Littlejohn “weaponized” his access to taxpayer data to “further his own personal, political agenda, believing that he was above the law.”

“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. … Defendant’s betrayal of the public trust merits significant punishment,” it reads.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) speaks during a news conference in the U.S. Capitol on July 11, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Littlejohn’s attorney argued that the DOJ didn’t have a basis for “requesting punishment six times greater than the maximum Guideline sentence for this offense.”

The DOJ said Mr. Littlejohn “developed a sophisticated, detailed plan” for downloading tax returns and used more general search parameters to avoid triggering “scrutiny or detection of his scheme.” A plea document shows Mr. Littlejohn acknowledging that he “abused a position of trust and employed highly specialized technical skills in furthering his criminal activity.”

Mr. Littlejohn had access to “vast amounts of unmasked taxpayer data” when he worked for consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm that served public and private clients mostly on IRS contracts between 2008 and 2013.

After President Trump took office in 2017, Mr. Littlejohn sought to return to work for Booz Allen “with the intention of accessing and disclosing” the tax returns of the president, whom he viewed as “dangerous and a threat to democracy,” according to prosecutors.

Booz Allen’s spokesperson told Fox News that the firm fully supports the investigation into Mr. Littlejohn’s actions.

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the actions of this individual, who was active with the company years ago,“ the spokesperson said. ”We have zero tolerance for violations of the law and operate under the highest ethical and professional guidelines. We fully supported the U.S. government in its investigation into this matter.”

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