'Breaking Bad': IRS attorney busted on methamphetamine distribution charges

The Internal Revenue Service headquarters in Washington.
Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

This Tax Man allegedly "broke bad."

An Ivy-League educated lawyer with the Internal Revenue Service has been arrested on federal charges of conspiring to distribute the illegal drug methamphetamine, authorities said Wednesday.

Jack Vitayanon, a Washington, D.C., resident who is an attorney in the IRS's Office of Professional Responsibility, allegedly conspired with others in Arizona and Long Island, New York, "to distribute methamphetamine" since mid-2014, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Brooklyn.

"The defendant — a federal attorney working for the IRS's Office of Professional Responsibility — broke bad and supplemented his income by selling distribution quantities of methamphetamine," said U.S. Attorney Robert Capers.

The phrase "broke bad" refers to hit television show "Breaking Bad," which depicted high school chemistry teacher Walter White becoming a meth manufacturer to make money after receiving a diagnosis of cancer.

The Office of Professional Responsibility's mission is to ensure that tax practitioners, preparers and others in the tax system "adhere to professional standards and follow the law," according to the IRS's website. Vitayanon's LinkedIn page, which says he has worked at the IRS for nearly five years, details how he has conducted investigations of attorneys, accountants and IRS agents "based on reports of suspected misconduct."

Vitayanon, 41, was in custody in Washington as of Wednesday afternoon after his arrest. He has yet to appear before a federal judge there.

Vitayanon's LinkedIn page says that he is also an adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington.

He graduated from Dartmouth in 1997 with a bachelor's degree, and got his law degree from Columbia University. He also holds a master's of law degree in taxation from New York University School of Law. Vitayanon previously worked at the prestigious Debevoise & Plimpton firm in New York City, and a small boutique tax firm.

A affidavit filed in support of criminal complaint against Vitayanon suggests that his alleged meth dealing came to light in early December when authorities investigating meth distribution on Long Island seized a Federal Express package containing 460 grams of the drug at a private residence in Oceanside, New York.

After being arrested, the intended recipient of the meth allegedly told authorities they had paid a source in Arizona $8,600 for the shipment. The recipient allegedly said they had originally been put in touch with that source in September 2014 by Vitayanon, who himself was using the source to purchase meth, the affidavit said.

The affidavit went on to say that the intended recipient of the meth shipment agreed to cooperate with agents from the Department of Homeland Security to investigate Vitayanon, and ended up negotiating with him to buy shipment containing an ounce of meth from him.

Those negotiations allegedly occurred via internet-based video chats and text messages.

During a video chat on Dec. 15, "Vitayanon was observed in his Washington, D.C., apartment smoking what appears to be methamphetamine from a glass pipe," according to the affidavit.

The affidavit accuses Vitayanon of eventually sending two separate shipments, totaling three ounces of meth, to the recipient on Long Island.

It also claims that Vitayanon asked the recipient to split up a $1,650 payment for the initial ounce he sent that person in mid-December between Vitayanon and the source in Arizona. That payment, according to the affidavit, included Vitayanon's expenses from shipping and what he called "my Ubers."

When authorities searched Vitayanon's apartment, they found suspected meth, drug paraphernalia, packaging material, as well as "drug ledgers," prosecutors said.

An IRS spokesman, when asked about Vitayanon on Wednesday, said "We cannot comment on specific personnel matters."

"The IRS holds its employees to high standards and does not tolerate inappropriate behavior," the spokesman said. "When questions arise, the IRS works closely with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and other law-enforcement authorities to pursue appropriate legal action. The IRS strongly emphasizes that it will take any and all actions against inappropriate employee conduct, up to and‎ including dismissal."