The US Secret Service is investigating claims that someone has stolen the Mitt Romney’s tax returns, with plans to release them of their demands are not met. News of the extortion broke late Wednesday, after the discovery of a post on Pastebin with the claims. As it turns out, campaign offices for both the Democrats and Republicans had received the extortion demands late last week.
According to the demands published online, allegedly by those who carried out the theft, Romney’s 1040 forms were stolen from a PriceWaterhouseCooper’s (PwC) office in Franklin, Tennessee.
“…we were able to gain access to your network file servers and copy over the tax documents for one Willard M Romney and Ann D Romney. We are sure that once you figure out where the security breach was, some people will probably get fired but that is not our concern,” the demand letter explains.
“The deal is quite simple,” the letter goes on to explain, all Romney’s people have to do in order to avoid publication of the tax forms is transfer $1,000,000 in Bitcoins to an account controlled by those who stole the documents. The theft of confidential information is news all on its own, but there is more to the story itself.
First, the tax forms that were said to have been stolen are all pre-2010, which means they are the forms that Romney’s campaign had previously refused to release. After that, if this incident is legit, then this marks the second time that a Republican involved in a Presidential campaign has been victimized. In 2008, as many will recall, VP nominee Sarah Palin had her Yahoo account compromised, and the contents published online. Finally, if Romney’s camp doesn’t pay, the extortionists have said that they will release the documents publically, or they will release them if the same ransom is paid by anyone else.
PwC said in a statement that they were working with the US Secret Service, which is expected, but added that they have “no evidence that our systems have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question…”
However, based on the ransom demands posted to the Web, and confirmation from both Democratic and Republican officials, PwC may be missing something or holding back.
“Romney’s 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied,” a letter posted by the thieves on September 2 explains.
“A package was sent to the PWC on suite 260 with a flash drive containing a copy of the 1040 files, plus copies were sent to the Democratic office in the county and copies were sent to the GOP office in the county at the beginning of the week also containing flash drives with copies of Romney’s tax returns before 2010. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms were scanned and included with the packages, taken from earlier 1040 tax forms gathered and stored on the flash drives.”
Peter Burr, chairman of the county Democratic Party in Williamson County Party in Franklin, Tennessee, confirmed with CNET that he did see the referenced package. Jean Barwick, executive director of the Williamson County Republican party, also confirmed receiving a package. Both officials released the contents to the Secret Service without examining them.
It’s likely that the incident is a hoax. The extortion letter said that members of the media would also be given a copy of the files, but so far that hasn’t seemed to happen. The Secret Service would only confirm they are looking into matters, and had no additional comment. We’ll update this story as more information emerges.