PHILADELPHIA – United States Attorney William M. McSwain announced that Justin Hiemstra, 22, of St. Paul Park, Minnesota, and Andrew Harris, 23, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania were both sentenced today to two years’ probation and 200 hours of community service by United States District Judge Cynthia M. Rufe. In August 2019, Hiemstra pled guilty to using a school computer and someone else’s username without that person’s permission in an attempt to illegally obtain then-Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service. Harris pled guilty to the same charges in September 2019.
These charges arose out of a plot between the defendants, then students at Haverford College, to use computers at the school’s computer lab and the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) website to illegally access the tax returns. Hiemstra and Harris opened a false FAFSA application in the name of a member of the Trump family and found that someone else had already obtained a username and password for Donald Trump. In order to reset the password, the defendants were prompted to answer challenge questions, which the original person had created when setting up the account. The defendants were able to answer the questions and reset the password. They then used the President’s personal identifying information, including his social security number and date of birth, to attempt to import the President’s federal tax information into the bogus FAFSA application. Ultimately, this illegal attempt failed.
“Hiemstra and Harris thought they could manipulate and outsmart the FAFSA application process in order to obtain Donald Trump’s tax returns for their own purposes. As it turns out, that was not such a smart move: they committed a serious violation of privacy rights and a federal crime in the process,” said U.S. Attorney McSwain. “Now they have both been held accountable. And those who complete the FAFSA application, please take note: this Office takes these kinds of cybersecurity breaches seriously and we are doing everything we can to keep your personal information safe.”
The case was investigated by the Department of Education – Office of Inspector General and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Anthony J. Wzorek.