Des Moines Iowa - An Iowa woman pleaded guilty Thursday for unlawfully using a former Department of Justice contractor’s government computer to access government records and to obtain sensitive, non-public law enforcement information, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
According to admissions made in connection with her guilty plea, Rachel Manna, 33, of West Des Moines, was acquainted with Danielle Taff, who was employed as a contractor paralegal by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa. Taff was assigned to the office’s Civil Division, where she worked exclusively on matters related to civil forfeiture and was neither required nor authorized to access files and information related to the district’s investigation and prosecution of criminal cases.
Manna admitted that in the spring of 2018, she asked Taff to obtain non-public information about certain defendants in a criminal investigation and prosecution being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As a result, on or about May 16, 2018, Taff used her U.S. Department of Justice computer to access criminal files stored on the district’s shared electronic data storage drive, including reports of law enforcement interviews with at least two individuals who cooperated with the district in a drug-trafficking investigation. Taff then used her cell phone to take approximately 30 photographs of the sensitive, non-public documents related to the drug-trafficking investigation.
After photographing the documents, Taff shared them with Manna, who subsequently shared the photographs with several individuals on Facebook. As a result, in October 2018, other individuals posted those photographs to a Facebook group dedicated to outing “snitches,” or law enforcement cooperators, in the Des Moines region. Among other sensitive information, the photographs taken by Taff and subsequently posted on Facebook identified at least two cooperators in the drug-trafficking investigation by name and other personal identifiers.
Taff pleaded guilty in November 2020 for her role in the scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced March 9. Sentencing for Manna is scheduled for June 4.
The Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General, Chicago Field Division, is investigating the case. Trial Attorneys Erica O’Brien Waymack and Matthew Palmer-Ball of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section are prosecuting the case.