‘A college prank gone awry’
Two college students attempted to access Donald Trump’s tax returns shortly before he became president, a scheme for which they are facing prosecution and which one of their attorneys calls a “prank.”
The defendants “were students at Haverford College outside Philadelphia” when they began to discuss “getting Trump’s tax information,” CBS17 reports.
The students, identified as Justin Hiemstra and Andrew Harris, took the novel approach of “open[ing] a fraudulent federal financial aid application in the name of an unnamed Trump family member” using a school computer. They “managed to reset a password, and, using Trump’s Social Security number and date of birth, repeatedly tried to import Trump’s federal tax information into the application, according to court documents.”
“The U.S. Department of Education and IRS detected the attempts,” the news station reports:
“No matter what you think about the President’s tax returns, clearly this kind of illegal activity cannot be tolerated or condoned. Unauthorized 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,” U.S. Attorney William McSwain, a Trump appointee, said in a statement Tuesday.
Hiemstra’s lawyer, Michael van der Veen, said in an interview that his client — a Fulbright scholar with no prior record — and Harris “as much wanted to see if it could be done as do it. They didn’t give it much forethought and they certainly didn’t consider consequences.”
Harris’ lawyer referred to the attempted fraud as “a college prank that just went awry.”