IRS in Hot Water Over Howard Stern Broadcast

BOSTON (CN) – Showcasing the diversity of Howard Stern’s appeal, a woman suing the IRS says an agent who had been calling into the show inadvertently gave the shock jock and his listeners an earful of their conversation on a private tax matter.

Judith Barrigas of Sandwich, Massachusetts, filed the federal complaint Monday in Boston, nearly two years after her debut on satellite radio left her in a state of humiliation and anxiety.

She says it all started on May 19, 2015, when she called the IRS to discuss a private tax matter. During that 45-minute call with agent Jimmy Forsyth, Barrigas allegedly began receiving numerous text messages from unknown people because her call was being broadcast live on “The Howard Stern Show.”

In addition to her phone number, which Stern fans promptly began dialing up, Barrigas says other personal information she shared during the course of the call included her tax-return and -refund issues, and the details of a repayment plan for certain tax liabilities.

Stern’s program draws approximately 1.2 million listeners to SiriusXM every day.

The shock jock apparently got access to the call because the agent with whom Barrigas was speaking, Jimmy Forsythe, was on hold with Stern when he took the Barrigas call on another line.

“Mr. Stern and The Stern Show joked about the publication and broadcast of Mrs. Barrigas’s tax and personal information and conversation with the IRS’s Agent Forsythe and used the broadcast and the humiliation of Mrs. Barrigas as a source of amusement for their listeners,” the complaint states.

Barrigas says hundreds of thousands of people have heard her call already thanks to Stern, and that she received hundreds of phone calls about it in the days afterward, “leaving Mrs, Barrigas in a frantic, high anxiety state.”

Despite her efforts to close this Pandora’s box, according to the complaint, Stern left the episode up for weeks on his website. By now the call is all over the internet.

Barrigas says the IRS was apparently planning to ignore her complaint altogether until she not reported the incident to the consumer helpline run by local news outlet WCVB-TV.

“Only upon notice from WCVB did the IRS begin an investigation into the matter and place Agent Forsythe on administrative leave,” the complaint states.

Representatives for the IRS and Stern have not returned requests seeking comment.

Barrigas is represented by Sol Cohen of Cohen & Sales in Waltham. She seeks punitive damages, alleging invasion of privacy, emotional distress and other claims.