Two Florida residents pleaded guilty Thursday to federal charges of scheming to sell the stolen diary of President Joe Biden’s daughter Ashley Biden, according to prosecutors and law enforcement officials.
Aimee Harris, 40, and Robert Kurlander, 58, admitted to stealing the diary from a home in Delray Beach, and then selling it to the conservative media company Project Veritas for $40,000, prosecutors and law enforcement officials said.
Court documents don’t specifically identify Ashley Biden as the owner of the stolen diary, but NBC News has previously confirmed the investigation into Project Veritas and the theft of the diary. The stolen items are identified in court papers as the “personal belongings of an immediate family member of a then-former government official who was a candidate for national political office.”
Harris, of Palm Beach, and Kurlander, of Jupiter, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property. Their lawyers could not immediately be reached.
Harris was temporarily residing at the home where she discovered the handwritten diary and other items belonging to Ashley Biden, including tax records and a cellphone, prosecutors said.
Harris then contacted Kurlander and asked for his help in trying to sell the diary and a digital storage device that had family photos stored on it, according to prosecutors.
Kurlander said he would help her “make a S--T TON of money” from selling the property, according to court documents. The pair attempted to give the stolen materials to the Trump campaign, but the campaign said it would not purchase the material and advised the pair to provide the items to the FBI, the documents say.
On Sept. 10, 2020, Harris and Kurlander contacted Project Veritas and engaged in discussions to sell the material. They ultimately did so for $40,000 and then attempted to take more at Project Veritas’ direction, according to prosecutors.
The court documents say Kurlander texted Harris at one point, saying Project Veritas was “in a sketchy business and here they are taking what’s literally a stolen diary and info” and attempting to turn it into a story that would ruin Ashley Biden’s “and try and effect the election.”
“We have to tread even me carefully,” he added in the text, “and that stuff needs to be gone through by us and if anything worthwhile it needs to be turned over and MUST be out of that house.”
Project Veritas said in a statement on Thursday that its news gathering was “ethical and legal.”
“A journalist’s lawful receipt of material later alleged to be stolen is routine, commonplace, and protected by the First Amendment,” the statement added. It did not acknowledge the $40,000 payment.
In a statement released last November when the investigation first came to light, Project Veritas CEO James O’Keefe said his group had been approached by people claiming they had the diary, but had decided not to publish it.
"Late last year, we were approached by tipsters claiming they had a copy of Ashley Biden’s diary" and "the tipsters indicated that they were negotiating with a different media outlet for the payment of monies for the diary," said O’Keefe, whose organization is known for producing “gotcha”-style undercover videos involving Democratic politicians, activists and the media.
“At the end of the day, we made the ethical decision that because, in part, we could not determine if the diary was real, if the diary in fact belonged to Ashley Biden, or if the contents of the diary occurred, we could not publish the diary and any part thereof.”
He said Project Veritas turned the diary over to law enforcement after an attorney for Ashley Biden refused to accept or authenticate it.
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams released a statement after the guilty pleas were announced.
“Harris and Kurlander stole personal property from an immediate family member of a candidate for national political office,” Williams said. “They sold the property to an organization in New York for $40,000 and even returned to take more of the victim’s property when asked to do so. Harris and Kurlander sought to profit from their theft of another person’s personal property, and they now stand convicted of a federal felony as a result.”