Man pleads guilty to IRS hack attempt to access Trump tax returns

10 Sep 2019

Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

A former Haverford college student has plead guilty to attempting to infiltrate the IRS in order to access the US president’s tax returns.

A 23-year-old Philadelphia man, Andrew Harris, has plead guilty to two counts of computer fraud after he attempted to hack the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to obtain US president Donald Trump’s tax returns.

While he was a junior at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, Harris and classmate Justin Hiemstra noticed, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, that the portal through which he had previously filed for federal student aid would automatically re-direct to the IRS and import tax returns.

It is reported that the students wondered what would happen if they posed as one of Trump’s children and whether they could, through this avenue, automatically pull in the Trump family tax returns. The two students logged on using another student’s credentials at their college’s computer lab six days before the 2016 presidential election.

They discovered that an account for federal aid already existed and, using Trump’s social security number and date of birth, both of which they discovered online, the pair repeatedly tried to reset the existing account’s password.

‘Wayne’s World scene gone awry’

Harris could face up to two years in prison and a fine of $200,000 for his crime. Harris was also reportedly “kicked out” of college for the offence, according to his lawyer William J Brennan Jr.

“This was a Wayne’s World scene gone awry,” Brennan argued, characterising the attempted hack as a college prank that went wrong.

In April 2018, a Louisiana private investigator was reportedly sentenced to 18 months incarceration for the same crime, which is why a fraudulent account on the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) system already existed for Tiffany Trump, whom both parties allegedly attempted to impersonate.

In a statement, US Attorney William McSwain said: “No matter what you think about the president’s tax returns, clearly this kind of activity cannot be tolerated or condoned … Unauthorised or false attempts to obtain any citizen’s IRS filings are a serious violation of privacy rights and a federal crime, and there’s nothing funny about it.”

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic