Washington (CNN)The IRS watchdog investigating the disappearance of Lois Lerner's emails told a congressional panel on Thursday night they are looking into the possibility of criminal activity.
IRS watchdog investigating email scandal: 'potential criminal activity'
Lerner was the IRS official at the center of allegations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups applying for nonprofit status. Congress requested Lerner's emails from the IRS and agency officials told lawmakers an unknown number of emails had been lost when Lerner's computer crashed.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has since recovered a number of those emails.
"There is potential criminal activity," Treasury Deputy Inspector General Timothy Camus told the House Oversight Committee Thursday.
Camus did not elaborate on who may have committed possible criminal acts. And, he cautioned that the investigation is not complete and cautioned against drawing conclusions until all the facts are in.
"What we're looking at is potential criminal wrongdoing. This has the looks, feel and smells of being criminal. And the IG confirmed tonight that's what they're looking into," House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz told CNN after the hearing.
Chaffetz invited the inspector general to testify in order to provide an update on the investigation.
Camus told the committee that less than two weeks ago, officials discovered an additional 424 backup tapes and are trying to determine what emails, if any, are on them. The tapes are in addition to about 750 backup tapes the inspector general found in July, some of which contained Lerner emails.
The IRS had told Congress that backup tapes no longer existed.
"The IRS has a lot of explaining to do," Chaffetz told CNN. "Because what (the inspector general) told us tonight means what the IRS told us is just factually not true."
No IRS representatives were present at the hearing.