College & Workforce Readiness

FAFSA Hacker Pleads Guilty to Trying to Get Trump Tax Info

By Catherine Gewertz — December 12, 2017 1 min read
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A Louisiana man pleaded guilty Monday to federal charges for trying to hack into the federal financial-aid system to get President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that Jordan Hamlett, 32, pleaded guilty to false representation of a Social Security number. He faces up to five years in prison, but no sentencing date has been set yet.

According to the Justice Department’s statement, Hamlett admits that he used Trump’s Social Security number and other personal information to open an online application for federal financial aid on Sept. 13, 2016, the Associated Press reports.

He got a user name and password, and then tried six times to use the Internal Revenue Service’s data-retrieval tool—an online system that lets students auto-populate their financial-aid forms with their family’s tax information—to get the president’s tax information.

Hamlett’s attorney, Michael Fiser, argued that his client didn’t have an “intent to deceive,” and simply tried “out of sheer curiosity” to discover whether Trump’s tax information could be accessed through the government website, the Associated Press reports. Hamlett is someone who likes to find weaknesses in security systems, and had even tried to call the Internal Revenue Service to tell them about the weakness he found in the financial-aid system, the AP reports.

Hamlett’s attempts to access the system set off alarm bells at the IRS, and led the agency, along with the U.S. Department of Education, to shut down the data-retrieval tool last March.

Federal officials announced security changes in the data-retrieval tool in August, and it’s now up and running again.

See also:
FAFSA Hacker Was Aiming for Trump Tax Info, Court Records Say

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A version of this news article first appeared in the High School & Beyond blog.