An anonymous group claims to have stolen copies of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax records and has threatened to release them unless the company from which it stole them pays a $1 million ransom.
The U.S. Secret Service is investigating the claim, but it remains to be seen whether the alleged theft isn’t just a hoax.
“Using your office” in Franklin, Tennessee, the group tells PricewaterhouseCoopers in an online posting, “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.”
The group threatened to send encrypted copies to “all major news outlets” and warned that it would release all the documents on Sept. 28 if its demands were not met.
The group demanded $1 million worth of the online currency Bitcoins to prevent it from releasing the private information to the public. It said that people who want the documents released can send money as well. Whichever side sends $1 million first will win.
Bitcoin is a digital currency not overseen by any government or bank. Various merchants accept the currency for goods and services.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, which offers tax services as well as auditing and more, tweeted that there was no evidence of unauthorized access to the company’s date, but added that it is working with the Secret Service on the matter.
The anonymous postings say that flash drive copies of the stolen material have been sent to the company, as well as to the county Democratic and Republican offices, and that a scanned image of Romney’s signature from the forms was included.
Jean Barwick with the Williamson County, Tennessee, Republican Party told CNN that her office found the package – a padded envelope – on Friday outside the door to the party offices. The package “didn’t seem credible,” partly because it said “for learders” instead of “leaders,” she said. Inside were a letter — one that has been posted online — and a flash drive.
She called state party officials, who were in Tampa at the Republican National Convention at the time, she said.
Her office later reported the package to local police, and the Secret Service picked it up Wednesday, she said.
Tax issues have continued to hound Romney, even as the presidential election enters its final stretch run.
The GOP standard bearer has released his 2010 tax returns and his 2011 ones, but has refused to release any further information. But Romney has insisted that he’s paid no less than 13 percent in personal income taxes over the past ten years.
He’s come under withering fire from Democrats for his refusal to do. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has even accused Romney of having gone without paying any taxes over a 10-year period.
Romney has vehemently denied that assertion.