FILE - In this Dec. 12, 2018, file photo, attorney Michael Avenatti speaks outside court about Michael Cohen's sentencing in New York. Federal prosecutors have charged an IRS employee with leaking banking records of President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco said Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. John C. Fry, an investigative analyst for the IRS's law enforcement arm, was charged on Feb. 4 with unlawful disclosure of suspicious activity reports, prosecutors said. He acknowledged releasing the information to attorney Michael Avenatti, the affidavit says. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

IRS employee charged in leak of Trump attorney records

February 21, 2019 - 6:03 pm

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged an IRS employee with leaking banking records of President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, the U.S. attorney's office in San Francisco said Thursday.

John C. Fry, an investigative analyst for the IRS's law enforcement arm, was charged on Feb. 4 with unlawful disclosure of suspicious activity reports, prosecutors said.

Banks must file such reports when transactions are spotted that raise questions about possible financial misconduct.

One of the reports Fry downloaded showed a Cohen company getting large payments from organizations, including one associated with a Russian oligarch who donated money to Trump's inauguration fund, according to an affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint.

Other payments came from AT&T and pharmaceutical giant Novartis, it said.

A message left for an attorney for Fry, Gail Shifman, was not immediately returned.

Fry, 54, of San Francisco has worked for the IRS since 2008, according to prosecutors and the affidavit.

He acknowledged releasing the information to attorney Michael Avenatti, the affidavit says. Avenatti is a lawyer for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who says she had an affair with Trump.

Avenatti used a Twitter account to disclose the information in May, the affidavit says. Avenatti had refused to say how he got the information.

The affidavit includes exchanges between Fry and a reporter, who wrote a story for the New Yorker about motives behind the leak. The magazine said the law enforcement official who released the report had grown concerned after he was unable to find two other reports on Cohen's financial activity that he believed should have been in a government database.

The suspicious activity report that Fry accessed was filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen's shell company, Essential Consultants LLC, maintained an account.

Fry also told investigators the New Yorker reporter contacted him to verify information, according to the affidavit by Linda Cieslak, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Treasury.

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