The Justice Department announced Thursday that Aimee Harris, 40, and Robert Kurlander, 58, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Manhattan to conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property involving the theft of “personal belongings of an immediate family member of a then-former government official who was a candidate for national political office.”
Nearly two weeks before the 2020 election, portions of the diary — which had gone missing earlier during the campaign — were published online on a right-wing website.
The conservative group Project Veritas, which did not publish the diary, claimed that it purportedly belonged to then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s daughter and that the diary had been provided to them by a “whistleblower.”
While the conservative group claimed that the diary had been legally obtained, the FBI launched an investigation into how the diary ended up in the organization’s hands. Agents conducted two searches at the homes of people tied to the activist group in November 2021.
In its Thursday announcement, the Justice Department said Harris and Kurlander, around September 2020, “conspired to steal,” transport and sell “personal property that belonged to an individual” referred to as a “victim.”
Michael J. Driscoll, an assistant director of the FBI, said in a statement that the two defendants “conspired to steal an individual’s personal property, which they subsequently sold to a third party and delivered across state lines.”
“As a consequence of their actions, they now face punishment in the federal criminal justice system for their crimes,” Driscoll said.
The Justice Department said the two knew that the items belonged to an immediate family member of a political candidate. According to the department, Harris had been staying at a Delray Beach, Fla., property where the items had been stored by the victim. The objects included the diary, tax records, a storage card with private family photographs and a cellphone. Harris, the Justice Department alleges, stole these items and, along with Kurlander, contacted an organization based in Mamaroneck, N.Y.; Project Veritas is headquartered there. The organization, the Justice Department said, paid them each $20,000 for the stolen property and had them transport the objects to New York.
According to the Justice Department, the organization asked Harris and Kurlander to return to Florida and obtain more items from the property, which Harris still had access to.
In a statement, Project Veritas said its “news gathering was ethical and legal.”
Harris and Kurlander pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. They also agreed to forfeit the $20,000 paid. Kurlander, as part of his plea deal, agreed to cooperate with the department’s investigation.
This marks the first time charges have been filed in connection to the theft of the diary.
According to the Justice Department’s investigation, the owner of the stolen property — which the department never identifies as Ashley Biden — was staying with a friend at the Florida residence around spring of 2020 and moved out of the property around June 2020, leaving behind the personal items with the friend’s permission. The same friend, days after Biden moved out, invited Harris to temporarily stay in her room, where she found the items. Nearly two months later, Harris asked Kurlander for help selling the property. Kurlander promised Harris he would help her make money selling the items.
By September 2020, the two had contacted a political campaign in the hope of selling the items, but the campaign declined, according to the Justice Department. That campaign instead advised the two to turn in the items to the FBI.
In a text to Harris, Kurlander refused to do so, and said the sale of the items would have “to be done a different way.” That’s when they contacted the conservative organization.