SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – An IRS employee accused of illegally leaking former Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s bank information to Stormy Daniels’ lawyer was sentenced to five years probation Friday after pleading guilty to one count of disclosing unauthorized documents.
Prosecutors with the Department of Treasury say John Fry, an IRS analyst, pulled “suspicious activity reports” related to Cohen’s accounts from confidential law enforcement databases and leaked the information to Stormy Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti, in May 2018.
On May 8, Avenatti posted personal documents related to Cohen and Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, on Twitter. From there, the Washington Post picked up the information, followed by an investigative story by the New Yorker.
Essential Consultants is the company Cohen used to pay porn actor Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with President Donald Trump.
The May 8 Washington Post story noted that Avenatti refused to reveal where he received his documents, saying, “The source or sources of our information is our work product, and nobody’s business … They can investigate all they want, but what they should be doing is releasing to the American public the three Suspicious Activity Reports filed on Michael Cohen’s account.”
Fry has worked for the IRS since 2008 and was working in the agency’s San Francisco office as of February last year. As an IRS analyst, he had access to various law enforcement databases, including the Palantir database used by the IRS Criminal Investigation division to collect investigative data from multiple sources, according to a criminal complaint filed in February 2019.
Prosecutors claimed Fry logged into the Palantir database at 2:54 p.m. on May 4, 2018, and downloaded five suspicious activity reports related Michael Cohen and his shell company. One of the reports detailed deposits of three checks in the amounts of $505,000, $250,000 and $250,000 from the shell company’s First Republic Bank account.
Immediately after downloading the files, Fry placed two phone calls to Daniels’ lawyer Avenatti. He later had a phone conversation with and exchanged texts with an unnamed reporter on the WhatsApp messaging app, according to the complaint.
Prosecutors said Fry also searched for and attempted to retrieve other unauthorized reports in a separate criminal database, but because those reports were restricted, he could not access them.
According to the complaint, Fry verbally confessed to leaking the reports when confronted by two special agents at the IRS office in San Francisco on Nov. 26, 2018.
Fry was charged with one count of unauthorized disclosure of suspicious activity reports, two counts of misuse of a computer and one count of unauthorized use of a social security number. He faced a maximum 20 years in prison and $1 million fine.
Prosecutors dropped three of the charges after Fry agreed to plead guilty to one count of unauthorized use of suspicious activity reports in August 2019.
Fry will pay a $5,000 fine and be subject to a five-year probation term with standard probation conditions imposed, including a requirement that he not leave the Northern District of California’s boundaries without advanced permission from his probation officer.
Fry’s attorney, Gail Shifman of San Francisco, did not return an email and phone call requesting comment Friday afternoon.