An Iowa paralegal working for the Department of Justice admitted to unlawfully revealing the identities of at least two cooperating witnesses as part of a federal drug trafficking investigation, providing the highly sensitive information to someone. one who then posted the names, addresses and phone numbers of informants to a “stop snitching” Facebook page with nearly 10,000 members.
Danielle N. Taff, 37, pleaded guilty on Friday to one count of computer fraud. She was a contractor in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa between June 2017 and June 2018.
Taff is from Ankeny and, according to a Facebook page that appears to belong to him, has three children and a soft spot for Jesus, reality TV and morels.
In early 2018, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Iowa Department of Narcotics opened an investigation into a methamphetamine trafficking ring operating in Iowa and Arizona, according to court documents. Confidential reports, files and documents used by investigators were stored on a shared computer drive managed by the US prosecutor’s office.
The data was kept in a subfolder named after the main defendant in the case, and getting there took some effort, investigators said. In May, Taff accessed the shared drive and pulled out a chemical analysis report, search warrant, and interview transcripts between law enforcement and two people assisting the federal government. Taff then used his cell phone to take about 30 photos of the documents on his monitor.
Taff “had no official, work-related reason” to view the non-public records, prosecutors said, “nor was she allowed to access them.” To access it, the defendant searched through several layers of folders and subfolders, all of which were under a parent folder for criminal files. “
She then met two friends for lunch, identified in court documents as “Person 1” and “Person 2”. Taff showed the couple the photos and let Person 1 take their photo. Person 1 later contacted Taff on Facebook Messenger, saying that she “forgot” to photograph one of the documents Taff had. She went to Person 1, who received the vaccine she needed.
Person 1 then shared the photos with nine other people, calling the two cooperating witnesses “alive”. A few months later, 27 of the 30 photos Taff took appeared on the “Hatez & Snitches Monks” Facebook group – a private group with 9,900 members. “Expose the truth and keep it real,” says the group’s description page.
Taff first told investigators that Person 1 photographed the footage on her phone without permission while in the bathroom. She later admitted that was not true.
The government’s case was delayed for more than a year after the names of witnesses were released.
Taff, who is free on bail pending conviction, faces up to five years in prison. His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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