PricewaterhouseCoopers says it is investigating allegations that Mitt Romney's tax returns were stolen from its Franklin, Tenn., office and were subsequently held for $1 million ransom.
The company issued a statement that said, "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."
A Sept. 2 Pastebin post claims that the PWC office was physically accessed on Aug. 25 and that pre-2010 tax documents purported to belong to Mitt and Ann Romney were then copied onto flash drives. The post also provides general details of the office environment in an apparent attempt to establish credibility. The anonymous group claims that encrypted copies have been sent to various parties, including both Democratic and Republican party officials. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms was allegedly scanned and included with the packages. It further claims that the encryption keys are for sale at a cost of $1 million bitcoins, a form of digital currency, available to both those who would publish the documents and those who would squelch them. The statement also says that the group will release all available files to the media on Sept. 28.
"Who-ever is the winner does not matter to us," the anonymous post concludes.
Ken Whitehouse, a journalist from the Nashville City Paper, reports that both the Democratic and Republican party offices in Williamson County Tennessee each received a corresponding letter with a flash drive last week. Whitehouse further claims that representatives from his paper have seen both the letter and the drive but that GOP officials denied permission to photograph them, and the evidence was subsequently taken by the Secret Service.
The debate surrounding Romney's tax returns has generated a variety of criticism and has led to speculation that the candidate has leveraged offshore accounts in such a manner that he has avoided paying any taxes for a period of years. Though Romney has released his tax return for 2010 and expressed intentions to release the documents for 2011, he has steadfastly refused to release returns for previous years. Romney has denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
PUBLISHED SEPT. 6, 2012