IRS Contractor Pleads Guilty to Disclosing Tax Return Information to News Organizations
For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
An IRS contractor, Charles Littlejohn, 38, of Washington, D.C., pleaded guilty today to disclosing tax return information without authorization.
“By using his role as a government contractor to gain access to private tax information, steal that information, and disclose it publicly, Charles Littlejohn broke federal law and betrayed the public’s trust,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “In every case, the Department of Justice is committed to following the facts wherever they lead and holding accountable those who violate our laws.”
“The unauthorized theft and disclosure of tax return information by government employees or contractors is a serious breach of the public’s trust,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Department will hold accountable those who illegally exploit their access to sensitive personal information.”
“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is dedicated to conducting comprehensive investigations of criminal activity that impacts federal tax administration. The American people have every right to expect the utmost integrity from those who are granted access to sensitive taxpayer information through their employment with the IRS. TIGTA stands ready to investigate, pursue, and bring to justice any individuals, whether they be employees, contractors, or unaffiliated outside parties who abuse IRS’s systems, steal taxpayer information, and/or illegally disclose taxpayer information,” said Deputy Inspector General for Investigations Trevor Nelson of TIGTA. “TIGTA is committed to investigating and bringing to justice those individuals who illegally disclose taxpayer information. I want to thank TIGTA special agents, the Department of Justice Public Integrity Section, and the U.S. Attorney’s offices for their hard work in their commitment to this goal.”
According to court documents, Littlejohn, 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 evaded 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 then stole additional tax return information related to Public Official A and provided it to News Organization 1. In September 2020, News Organization 1 published a series of articles about Public Official A’s tax returns.
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 IRS detection. In November 2020, Littlejohn disclosed this tax return information to News Organization 2, which published over 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 to unauthorized disclosure of tax return and return information. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 29, 2024, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
TIGTA investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Lauren Castaldi and Jonathan E. Jacobson of the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case, with substantial assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Eleanor Hurney for the Northern District of West Virginia.
If you believe you are a victim in this case, please contact the Public Integrity Section by email at CRM-PIN.Victims@usdoj.gov. Victims can find case updates and additional information at www.justice.gov/criminal-vns/case/united-states-v-charles-littlejohn.
Updated October 12, 2023
Press Release Number: 23-1127