A Louisiana man has been charged with using a federal student loan application tool in an unsuccessful attempt to look up then-presidential candidate Donald Trump’s tax records.
The man, Jordan Hamlett, is a private investigator, according to the publication, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, which first reported the arrest. The alleged attempt occurred on Sept. 13, in the weeks leading up to the presidential election. Hamlett pleaded not guilty, according to court records.
Hamlett, 31, was indicted Nov. 10 on a federal felony charge of false representation of a social security number. Days earlier, on Oct. 27, he had been interviewed by federal agents in the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Baton Rouge, La., according to the court records.
“Mr. Hamlett looks forward to presenting his case and motives to a jury of 12 citizens to let them decide whether any offense was committed,” his attorney Michael Fiser said in an email.
Throughout the campaign, and since taking the presidential oath, Trump has refused to release his tax returns because he says he is under IRS audit. Government watchdogs and Democrats have said the information will provide critical information about his business interests and indicate the true value of his wealth.
The IRS and Education Department abruptly suspended the use of the popular online student aid tool in March, baffling student consumer advocates and lawmakers. Later, in April, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen testified on Capitol Hill that as many as 100,000 people may have had their personal information stolen by thieves manipulating the tool, which enables students to more easily apply for federal financial aid. Officials said they discovered the potential vulnerability in the fall of 2016 through which thieves could illegally obtain taxpayer information.
Prosecutors say that Hamlett offered the information about what he had done.
“The defendant immediately volunteered that he had committed the crime, and he even sounded proud of what he had done,” according to a filing signed by U.S. Attorney J. Walter Green. “He wanted to cooperate with the agents, and the defendant stated as much toward the end of his interview.”
In court filings in the Middle District of Louisiana, Fiser claimed that federal agents did not “validly execute” Hamlett’s Miranda rights before he was interrogated because the questioning was “conducted in the absence of counsel.” The Miranda warning is a right to remain silent that police are required to give to criminal suspects in custody before interrogating them.
Hamlett’s “statements were made while he was not free to leave” and therefore were involuntary, the filing said.