A private investigator in Baton Rouge, La., has been indicted for trying to use the Internal Revenue Service’s online data retrieval tool for student loan applications to access tax information from President Donald Trump.
Jordan Hamlett, 31, of Averlock Investigations in Baton Rouge was indicted last November for entering a Social Security number not belonging to him in mid-September to access the IRS data retrieval tool, Federal Student Aid – Datashare, which connects with the Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, app. The Social Security number belonged to Trump, according to court papers posted online by the Washington Post. The attempt to access Trump's adjusted gross income and tax return information was unsuccessful. Hamlett and his attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Hamlett admitted to federal law enforcement investigators during an interview at the Embassy Suites in Baton Rouge last October he had “committed the crime” and “even sounded proud of what he had done,” according to the court papers.
Trump has steadfastly refused to release his tax returns during and after the presidential campaign, claiming they are under audit by the IRS. In March, the IRS closed down the data retrieval tool after noticing suspicious activity (see IRS student loan link goes dark). The IRS later reported that the security breach may have affected up to 100,000 taxpayers (see Data breach of IRS student financial aid tool may have affected 100,000 taxpayers). IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified before the Senate Finance Committee last month that the agency believes fewer than 8,000 fraudulent returns were processed (see IRS chief reports to Congress about tax season amid new push for his ouster). Up to $30 million in refunds were issued before the tool was shut down.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration helped investigate the FAFSA data retrieval tool breach. During a congressional hearing earlier this month on the FAFSA data breach, TIGTA deputy inspector general Timothy P. Camus alluded to the attempt to access Trump’s tax return and added that someone else had tried to do the same thing last November before the IRS ultimately closed down the tool last tax season.
“In September 2016, TIGTA detected an attempted access to the AGI of a prominent individual,” he said in his written statement. “When we investigated the attempted access, we determined that the FAFSA application and the DRT [data retrieval tool] were used in this attempt. Since FAFSA is a Department of Education application, we notified the Education OIG [Office of Inspector General] and we notified the IRS Privacy, Governmental Liaison and Disclosure (PGLD) program office. We initiated a joint investigation with the Education OIG that included the Cyber Crimes Task Force. The investigation identified the individual responsible for the attempted access and he was arrested. This case is still proceeding through the court system. In November 2016, we noticed another attempted access of the same prominent individual’s AGI through the FAFSA and the DRT, this time, from an entirely different location. We have included this attempted access in our investigation activity and we also notified the PGLD program office. This activity is still under investigation.”
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