TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, May 22, 2017

Private Investigator's Attempt To Obtain Donald Trump's Tax Return Led IRS To Shut Down FAFSA Data Retrieval Tool; Who Hired Him?

FAFSAIRSFollowing up on my previous posts:

Diverse Issues in Higher Education, FAFSA Hacker Targeted Trump Tax Info:

The person accused of a 2016 attempt to use a web-based federal student-aid tool to illegally obtain taxpayer information is a Louisiana-based private investigator who used the tool to target then-presidential candidate Donald J. Trump, court records obtained by Diverse show.

The records allege that when Jordan Hamlett, 31, met FBI agents in the atrium of the Embassy Suites in Baton Rouge, he “immediately volunteered that he had committed the crime and he even sounded proud of what he had done.”

The records allege that Hamlett “unlawfully attempted to obtain Trump’s federal tax information from the U.S. Department of Education and IRS using the web application Federal Student Aid – Datashare.” The application enables students to more easily fill out the FAFSA — or Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

By using the tool students could have their IRS data automatically populated into the FAFSA. The Federal Student Aid — Datashare (FSA-D) application was shut down in March 2017 due to security concerns. FSA-D is the IRS’s internal name for the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, better known as the IRS DRT.

The fact that Hamlett is described in court records as a private investigator raised questions about his possible motive.

“Do you think the whole DRT problem might have just been folks trying to get Trump’s tax records?” wondered one former Department of Education official from the Obama administration, speaking in reference to unheeded requests for Trump to disclose his tax returns.

Others in Washington say inquiries about the matter are met with silence. ... Another curious aspect of the case is despite the fact that it led to the shutdown of a widely-used web-based tool that has been described as the “cornerstone of federal financial aid simplification,” surprisingly little — if anything — has been reported about the case. ...

The case — formally known as United States of America versus Jordan Hamlett — is being prosecuted in the United States District Court Middle District of Louisiana, according to online records obtained through PACER, an online federal court database. The records indicate that Hamlett’s indictment was originally sealed, which might explain why the case has received so little publicity until now. ...

Hamlett’s case is one of the earliest indications that federal authorities had of a potential flaw in the DRT that could allow identity thieves to illegally obtain other people’s tax information. ...

The records indicate that Hamlett is charged with false representation of a social security number, a felony. The indictment states that Hamlett attempted to enter a Social Security Number ending with four digits that were not consistent with his own social security number to create a FAFSA ID. The last four digits were consistent with a Social Security Number that the “hackivist” group Anonymous released last year and which the group said belonged to Donald Trump.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2017/05/private-investigators-attempt-to-obtain-donald-trumps-tax-return-led-irs-to-shutdown-fafsa-data-retr.html

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