A private investigator in Louisiana unsuccessfully tried to obtain President Donald Trump's federal tax information through a government website, and "even sounded proud of what he had done," authorities said.
Jordan Hamlett was charged with misrepresenting his Social Security number in the effort, prosecutors said. He is accused of using a computer application on a public government website in an attempt to get Trump's records.
Hamlett did this in September, while Trump was still a candidate for president, by using the Federal Student Aid-Datashare application, prosecutors said.
Trump refused to release his tax returns during the presidential campaign, saying he was under audit, and still has not made the records public.
Hamlett, 31, owns a private investigations agency in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He pleaded not guilty. His lawyer didn't immediately respond to phone and email messages Tuesday.
In an interview with federal agents in the lobby of the Embassy Suites Hotel in Baton Rouge, Hamlett expressed pride in the technique he used, prosecutors wrote in court filings.
Hamlett "immediately volunteered that he had committed the crime, and he even sounded proud of what he had done," they wrote.
The application at the center of the case allowed users applying for financial aid to locate their tax records, and transfer the information to the education website.
In court records, defense lawyer Michael Fiser characterized the interview in the hotel as an "interrogation," and said his client's statements were not made voluntarily. Fiser is trying to keep the statements from being used as evidence.
Prosecutors dispute that account, saying the encounter with federal agents was friendly and that Hamlett had agreed to speak with them during an hours-long interview in the hotel's public atrium, and that he was free to go at any time.
Fiser also said in court filings that he needs more time to prepare for trial due to the volume of evidence, much of it in digital form.
"For example, primary items of evidence in this case will include data and information on a seized HP laptop, a Toshiba laptop, a Sandisk 16 gigabyte card, and at least 10 recorded telephone calls," Fiser wrote.
The charge is a felony. If convicted, Hamlett faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, which are the maximum penalties, said Corey R. Amundson, acting U.S. attorney in Louisiana's middle district for federal courts.