NEW YORK (AP) — Two Florida residents have pleaded guilty to a scheme to sell a diary and other items stolen from President Joe Biden’s daughter to the conservative group Project Veritas for $40,000, officials said Thursday. prosecutors.
Aimee Harris and Robert Kurlander were “seeking to profit from their theft of other people’s personal property,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement.
Harris, a 40-year-old man from Palm Beach, and Kurlander, 58, from nearby Jupiter, face up to five years in prison. They pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines.
Harris’ attorney, Sam Talkin, said she “has accepted responsibility for her conduct and looks forward to moving on with her life.” Kurlander’s attorney, Florian Miedel, declined to comment.
Although authorities have not identified anyone in the case except for the defendants, the survey details have been public for months.
Ashley Biden, the president’s daughter, was leaving a friend’s house in Delray Beach, Florida, in the spring of 2020 when she stored the diary and other belongings there, prosecutors said in a court filing.
They said Harris then moved into the same room, found the items and got in touch with Kurlander, who enthused in a text message that he would help her earn a “ton of money” by selling it, adding an expletive before “ton”.
The pair originally intended to sell some of the stolen assets from then-President Donald Trump’s campaign, but a representative turned them down and told them to return the material to the FBI, according to court documents.
The campaign “can’t use this,” Kurlander explained to Harris in a September 2020 text message, adding, “It has to be done in a different way.”
Their next stop was Project Veritas, which paid for the two to bring some of the materials — including the diary and a digital camera with family photos — to a luxury New York hotel, prosecutors said.
Project Veritas staffers met with Kurlander and Harris in New York and agreed to pay an initial $10,000, saying more money could come if they collected more items from Ashley Biden at the house, in part to authenticate the diary, according to the court filing.
Back in Florida, Kurlander sent Harris a stark assessment of what would happen to the trade, prosecutors said.
“They’re in a sketchy business and here they’re taking what is literally a stolen diary and information…and trying to make a story that will ruin” Ashley Biden’s life and possibly affect the impending presidential election, a he wrote, according to the court papers. He added that the two needed to “be even more careful” and remove “everything worthwhile” from the Delray Beach home, according to court documents.
Prosecutors say Kurlander and Harris took Ashley Biden’s tax documents, clothing and stored luggage as Kurlander pressed Project Veritas in message to commit to larger payment: ‘We’re taking huge risks . It is not fair.
A Project Veritas staffer quickly flew to Florida, the employee shipped the items to New York, and the group paid Harris and Kurlander $20,000 each, prosecutors said.
Project Veritas identifies itself as a news organization. He is best known for leading hidden camera stings that embarrassed the media, labor organizations and Democratic politicians.
“Project Veritas’ information gathering was ethical and legal” in the newspaper’s case, the group said in a statement Thursday. The organization said earlier it had handed over the diary to law enforcement after receiving it from “tricksters” who claimed it had been left in a room.
“Lawful receipt by a journalist of subsequently stolen material is common, commonplace, and protected by the First Amendment,” Project Veritas added Thursday.
Neither Project Veritas nor any of the staff have been charged with a crime.
The FBI raided the group’s New York offices and the homes of some of its employees as part of the investigation. A court in New York appointed a former federal judge to examine the seized material in these searches, in order to ensure that the investigators cannot consult documents protected by journalistic or lawyer-client privileges.
Generally, media organizations are not guilty of receiving material that could have been stolen, if they were not involved in the theft. But there may be criminal liability for orchestrating a theft and then knowingly paying for stolen material.
“There is no First Amendment protection for theft and interstate transportation of stolen property,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. written in a court file Last year.
O’Keefe said Project Veritas was ultimately unable to confirm the diary was owned by Ashley Biden. The group has not released any information about him.
He added that there was “no doubt that Project Veritas acted appropriately at every stage.”
Ashley Biden, a 41-year-old social worker, is the daughter of the president and first lady Jill Biden. His eldest daughter and his first wife were killed in a car accident in 1972.
Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed from Philadelphia.