Two guilty pleas in Manhattan federal court on Thursday highlight how far Project Veritas went to obtain stolen items belonging to Ashley Biden — including allegedly paying for a private diary belonging to the President’s daughter.
The group and its operatives directed two Floridians to obtain items belonging to Biden, paid for the pair’s travel, and sent an employee to ship the property from Florida back to the group’s headquarters in New York state, according to a criminal information filed against Florida residents Robert Kurlander and Aimee Harris.
Prosecutors said that Project Veritas received property that Harris and Kurlander stole from the Biden daughter – with Harris allegedly telling employees of the right-wing group how she obtained the material.
Kurlander and Harris each pleaded guilty on Thursday to conspiracy to move stolen property across state lines. Harris initially found Ashley Biden’s diary in the run-up to the 2020 election at a home in which she and the President’s daughter both spent time, before telling Kurlander, a friend of hers, about the discovery.
The pair eventually sold it to Project Veritas for $40,000, prosecutors said.
Paul Calli, an attorney for Project Veritas, disputed in a statement to TPM that the group knew the items had been stolen.
“Project Veritas’s news gathering was ethical and legal,” Calli said. “A journalist’s lawful receipt of material later alleged to be stolen is routine, commonplace, and protected by the First Amendment.”
But guilty pleas and prosecutorial statements tell a far different story, suggesting that the group helmed by right-wing operative James O’Keefe may have not only solicited property from the pair — but also directed them to obtain more of it.
Prosecutors do not name Project Veritas in the information to which Harris and Kurlander pleaded guilty. But the group described in the document closely matches public reporting about Project Veritas’ role in obtaining Ashley Biden’s diary, and is identifiable based on its Mamaroneck, New York address, named in the filing.
Prosecutors said that Kurlander first sent photographs of property that prosecutors say was stolen from Biden to Project Veritas via an encrypted messaging app.
From there, prosecutors said, Project Veritas was enticed.
The group offered to pay for the pair’s “airfare, hotel, and car service,” bringing them to New York City, prosecutors said. In tow, the information reads, Harris and Kurlander brought items belonging to Ashley Biden: her diary, a digital camera, and a memory card with “private family photographs.”
Project Veritas, prosecutors said, paid for the two to take a private car ride for a meeting at a “luxury hotel” in Manhattan, where an executive and employee with the group were waiting.
At the hotel, prosecutors said, Harris explained the situation, telling the group how she obtained Biden’s property, and saying that there were additional items still in the residence two which she retained access.
“HARRIS’s explanations to the Organization during this meeting confirmed for KURLANDER that HARRIS had stolen the Victim’s property,” the filing reads.
The group went to dinner later that evening, prosecutors said.
That night, the information says, the unnamed Project Veritas employee offered the pair a deal: the organization would pay Harris $10,000 for the initial items that she had brought, but would need more items, in part to authenticate the journal. It would be up to Harris to obtain those extra items of Biden’s, with the employee allegedly telling the pair that the value of what she brought in would increase if more items were retrieved.
The unnamed employee allegedly told the pair that he was working at the direction of another Project Veritas executive, who did not appear in prosecutors’ description of the meeting at the luxury Manhattan hotel.
The pair traveled back to Florida, prosecutors said, and demanded more money from Project Veritas before continuing.
“They are in a sketchy business and here they are taking what’s literally a stolen diary and info and trying to make a story that will ruin [the Victim’s] life and try and effect the election (sic),” Kurlander texted Harris at one point.
Project Veritas, prosecutors said, agreed to make “additional payments.” Kurlander and Harris then returned to the residence, removing tax records, clothing, and luggage.
On the same day, the unnamed Project Veritas employee traveled to Florida to retrieve the items, prosecutors alleged. The next day, prosecutors said, he shipped what the government describes as “stolen property” from Florida back to New York.
In the end, Project Veritas paid $40,000 for the diary, prosecutors said. It never published the contents, though text from the diary ended up on a little-read right-wing website weeks before the 2020 election.
The group undertook an apparently herculean effort to try to authenticate the diary before the 2020 election, including an operative reportedly using the group’s favored deceptive tactics to try to go undercover and persuade Ashley Biden to admit that the journal was hers.
In late October 2020, Project Veritas reportedly contacted attorneys for Ashley Biden, informing them of the diary while asking for an interview. The Biden daughter’s lawyers described the attempt as extortionate, refused to authenticate the journal, and referred the matter to Manhattan federal prosecutors.
Prosecutors have not brought any charges against Project Veritas. Per the plea agreement, Kurlander will cooperate with the ongoing investigation.