The Secret Service is up in arms over claims being made by a group that says they have obtained White House hopeful Mitt Romney’s tax records. In a message posted online, the group says they will leak the files if not paid $1,000,000 in Bitcoins.
An unidentified group says that they managed to make their way into the Franklin, Tennessee's branch of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP company and accessed the computer servers that contained encrypted copies of “tax documents for one Willard M Romney and Ann D Romney.” Now they want his campaign to convert one million US dollars into Bitcoins, a decentralized digital crypto-currency, or else they will release the files to the press.
The group has issued a warning but has so far provided no material proof to validate their claim. If their demands are not met, however, they insist that they will follow through with their threat.
“All major news media outlets are going to be sent an encrypted copy of the most recent tax years that your company had on file since you did not have them all in a convenient electronic form,” the author of the letter, posted to Pastebin.com and first discovered by the Nashville City Paper, writes. “If the parties interested do not want the encrypted key released to the public to unlock these documents on September 28 of this year then payment will be necessary.”
The mastermind behind the alleged extortion plot says that the group will release "all available 1040 tax forms for Romney” if his campaign does not contribute the funds by September 28, at which point, “the entire world will be allowed to view the documents with a publicly released key to unlock everything.”
Romney’s campaign has not formally made any remarks over the threat, but his accountants seem to be calling the bluff so far, though, and insist that there has been no security breach.
"At this time there is no evidence that our systems have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question," PricewaterhouseCoopers spokesman Chris Atkins tells reporters. To US News & World Report, a spokesperson for PWC says, "We are aware of the allegations that have been made regarding improper access to our systems. We are working closely with the United States Secret Service, and at this time there is no evidence that our systems have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question."
Separately, the US Secret Service confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday that they are investigation the threat but did not release any further information at this time.
The Franklin, TN Police Department has also commented on the matter, saying that they have not been made aware of any security breaches at the branch office.
"We've had nothing from that address in August," Police Lt. Charles J. Warner says.
No other sources have vouched for the authenticity of the claim, although the alleged holder of the tax returns has provided an address for the Bitcoins to be delivered to. They have also extended the offer up for any parties that may prefer to pay to see the tax files released.
“For those that DO want the documents released will have a different address to send to. If $1,000,000 USD is sent to this account below first; then the encryption keys will be made available to the world right away. So this is an equal opportunity for the documents to remain locked away forever or to be exposed before the September 28 deadline,” the group writes.