Paralegal’s Pal Admits Outing Witnesses

A woman from Iowa has admitted obtaining confidential information about a drug-trafficking operation from her paralegal friend and then releasing it on social media.

Rachel Manna, of West Des Moines, pleaded guilty on February 4 to using a former Department of Justice contractor’s government computer to access government records and to obtain sensitive, non-public law enforcement information.

In the spring of 2018, 33-year-old Manna asked her friend Danielle Taff to access details about certain defendants in a criminal investigation and prosecution. 

At the time, 37-year-old Ankeny resident Taff was employed as a contractor paralegal by the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Iowa. She was assigned to the office’s Civil Division, where she worked exclusively on matters related to civil forfeiture. Taff’s job did not require nor authorize her to access files and information related to the district’s investigation and prosecution of criminal cases. 

Nevertheless, Taff agreed to Manna’s request, and on or about May 16, 2018, the paralegal used her US Department of Justice computer to access criminal files stored on the district’s shared electronic data storage drive. Among the information illegally accessed by Taff were reports of law enforcement interviews with at least two individuals who had cooperated with the district in a drug-trafficking investigation.

Taff used her cell phone to photograph around 30 sensitive, non-public documents related to that drug-trafficking investigation. She then shared the photographs with Manna. 

“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,” stated the Department of Justice.  

The photographs taken by Taff and subsequently posted on Facebook identified at least two people who had cooperated in the drug-trafficking investigation by name and other personal identifiers.

On November 6, 2020, Taff pleaded guilty to one count of fraud and related activity in connection with computers before US District Judge Stephanie Rose of the Southern District of Iowa. 

Taff is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9. Sentencing for Manna is due to take place on June 4.

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