Former IRS Contractor Sentenced for Disclosing Tax Return Information to News Organizations
For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
A former IRS contractor was sentenced today to five years in prison for disclosing thousands of tax returns without authorization.
“Charles Littlejohn abused his position as a consultant at the Internal Revenue Service by disclosing thousands of Americans’ federal tax returns and other private financial information to news organizations. He violated his responsibility to safeguard the sensitive information that was entrusted to his care, and now he is a convicted felon,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s sentence sends a strong message that those who violate laws intended to protect sensitive tax information will face significant punishment.”
According to court documents, Charles Littlejohn, 38, of Washington, D.C., while working at the IRS as a government contractor, stole tax return information associated with a high-ranking government official (Public Official A). Littlejohn accessed tax returns associated with Public Official A (and related individuals and entities) on an IRS database after using broad search parameters designed to conceal the true purpose of his queries. He then uploaded the tax returns to a private website in order to avoid IRS protocols established to detect and prevent large downloads or uploads from IRS devices or systems. Littlejohn then saved the tax returns to multiple personal storage devices, including an iPod, before contacting News Organization 1. Between around August 2019 and October 2019, Littlejohn provided News Organization 1 with the tax return information associated with Public Official A. Littlejohn subsequently stole additional tax return information related to Public Official A and provided it to News Organization 1. Beginning in September 2020, News Organization 1 published a series of articles about Public Official A’s tax returns using the tax return information obtained from Littlejohn.
“This sentence should serve as a warning to anyone who is considering emulating Mr. Littlejohn’s actions,” said Acting Inspector General Heather Hill of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). “TIGTA relentlessly investigates individuals who illicitly access and disclose taxpayer information, regardless of their personal motivation. TIGTA appreciates the commitment of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in ensuring those who abuse their positions of public trust are held accountable for their actions.”
In July and August 2020, Littlejohn separately stole tax return information for thousands of the nation’s wealthiest individuals. Littlejohn was again able to evade detection by uploading the tax return information to a private website. In November 2020, Littlejohn disclosed this tax return information to News Organization 2, which published nearly 50 articles using the stolen data. Littlejohn then obstructed the forthcoming investigation into his conduct by deleting and destroying evidence of his disclosures.
Littlejohn pleaded guilty in October 2023 to unauthorized disclosure of tax returns and return information.
TIGTA investigated the case.
Trial Attorney Jonathan E. Jacobson and Deputy Chief Jennifer Clarke of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted the case, with substantial assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Eleanor Hurney for the Northern District of West Virginia.
Updated January 29, 2024
Press Release Number: 24-103