CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - FOX19 has exclusively learned that as many as five people may be the first Cincinnati Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees to face disciplinary action, and possibly even criminal charges, for allegedly targeting Tea Party and Liberty groups applying for non-profit status.
On Wednesday, the IRS announced that it had pinpointed two employees at the agency's Cincinnati office for being 'primarily' responsible.
In addition, acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller resigned his position, revealed by President Obama on Wednesday.
"Secretary Lew took the first step by requesting and accepting the resignation of the acting commissioner of the IRS, because given the controversy surrounding this audit, it's important to institute new leadership that can help restore confidence going forward," said President Obama in a statement on Wednesday evening.
Prior to his resignation, Steven Miller called the two Cincinnati employees 'rogue' and 'off the reservation,' adding that they were 'overly aggressive' in handling the requests from those conservative groups over the past two years.
Miller also added that those two employees have already been 'disciplined' by the agency.
However, despite the claim of just two employees being involved, FOX19 has exclusively learned from two separate sources that there could be at least four Cincinnati employees involved.
Those four employees, whose names we have chosen to withhold until they have been officially confirmed, have each worked in the IRS Exempt Organizations Department.
This is the same department that has admitted publicly to sending letters to Tea Party and other conservative organizations.
FOX19 has also confirmed those four Cincinnati employees made large requests of information from:
- The Richmond, Virginia Tea Party in January of 2012.
- The Ohio Liberty Council in January of 2012..
- Dan Backer, a lawyer based in Washington D.C. who helped six small conservative groups apply for 501c4 status in February of 2012.
- The Liberty Township Tea Party in March of 2012.
One of FOX19's two sources went on say that these four IRS workers claim "they simply did what their bosses ordered." FOX19 reported on Tuesday that the report by the Office of Inspector General states that senior IRS officials knew agents were targeting Tea Party groups as early as 2011.
In fact, according to that report, Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax exempt organizations, was told on June 29, 2011 that groups with 'Tea Party', 'Patriot' or '9/12 Project' in their names were being flagged for additional, and often burdensome, scrutiny.
While the IRS is pointing at 'two rogue employees,' the number of organizations that were singled out has swelled to nearly 500, according to Rep. Congressmen Darryl Issa and Ohio's Jim Jordan.
In addition, on Friday FOX19 obtained documents of a fifth Cincinnati IRS agent who reportedly came after a pro-life group in 2009. The group was asked about prayer meetings, and the content of signs held up outside Planned Parenthood.
According to documents obtained by FOX19, the group in question is 'Coalition for Life', based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. You can learn more about this fifth worker in Ben Swann's Reality Check here: http://www.fox19.com/story/22286522/rc-5th-cincinnati-irs-agent-allegedly-connected-to-scandal
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Affairs also sent a letter Wednesday afternoon to the IRS requesting five employees named in the IG audit be made available for transcribed interviews by committee staff.
According to FOX News, the names and titles of the IRS employees requested are Holly Paz, a director; John Shafer, a manager; Gary Muthert, a screener; Liz Hofacre, a case coordinator; and Joseph Herr, a manager.
Want to weigh in on this story? Leave a comment on Ben Swann's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BenSwannRealityCheck?fref=ts