Jordan Hamlett, a private investigator from Louisiana, plead guilty Monday for using President Trump’s social security number to try and get a hold of the president’s federal tax information.
Hamlett, 32, failed after several attempts of trying to retrieve Trump’s tax information from a U.S. Department of Education financial aid website last September during Trump’s campaign run for the presidency. Authorities later charged Hamlett with misuse of a Social Security number “with intent to deceive,” according to a Louisiana state court document.
“The defendant made six separate attempts to obtain the federal tax information from IRS servers, but he was unsuccessful,” according to a court document.
Jordan Hamlett’s defense attorney Michael Fiser argued that his client didn’t have any “intent to deceive” and attempted to get President Trump’s tax records “out of sheer curiosity” to see if the government’s web security could be compromised. Fiser added that Hamlet liked to test websites for security flaws in his spare time and would notify the system administrators whenever he was able to detect any security breaches. Hamlett once discovered a security flaw that allowed anyone public access to the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office’s raw data reports that contained personal information about its police officers, according to the Associated Press. Fiser added that the sheriff’s office thanked Hamlett for detecting the security flaw and alerting them to it.
Hamlett’s attorneys say he was acting as a “white hat” hacker and have argued that he had a “good purpose” because he was attempting to expose cybersecurity flaws in the financial aid website so they could be addressed.
According to the Associated Press, Special Agent Samuel Johnson from the U.S. Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration said in a testimony that federal agents met with Hamlett at a Baton Rouge hotel. At the time, the agents weren’t sure if Hamlett was successful at getting Trump’s tax information, but they feared the release of a Trump tax return could have influenced the election.
Hamlett’s trial was set to begin this week, but the federal judge assigned to the case died Saturday after a brief illness. The U.S. District Court Judge who has taken over the case did not immediately schedule Hamlett’s hearing.
If Hamlett is convicted, he could face a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
President Trump has refused to release his tax information to the public. According to the New York Times, he is the first U.S. president since the 1970s to decline to release a tax return.