Franklin, Tennessee Man Sentenced to 48 Months in Prison for Romney Tax Return Fraud and Extortion Scheme
Michael Mancil Brown, 37, of Franklin, Tenn., was sentenced late yesterday to 48 months in prison for engaging in an extortion and wire fraud scheme involving former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns, announced Jack Smith, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee; Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Special Agent in Charge Todd Hudson of the U.S. Secret Service’s Nashville Field Office.
Brown was found guilty at trial on May 12, 2016, of six counts of wire fraud and six counts of using facilities of interstate commerce to commit extortion. U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson of the Eastern District of Arkansas, sitting by designation in the Middle District of Tennessee, imposed the sentence and also ordered Brown to pay $201,836 in restitution to PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
According to testimony at trial, evidence recovered from a computer seized from Brown’s residence in 2012 implicated Brown in a scheme to defraud Romney, the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and others, by falsely claiming that he had gained access to the PricewaterhouseCoopers internal computer network and had stolen tax documents for Romney and his wife, Ann D. Romney, for tax years prior to 2010.
In August 2012, a letter delivered to the offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Franklin demanded that $1 million worth of the digital currency Bitcoin be deposited to a specific Bitcoin account to prevent the release of the purportedly stolen Romney tax returns, according to trial evidence. The letter invited interested parties who wanted the allegedly stolen Romney tax documents to be released to contribute $1 million to another Bitcoin account. As part of the scheme, similar letters were delivered to the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties in Franklin and similar statements were posted to Pastebin.com.
The U.S. Secret Service’s Nashville Field Office investigated the case with assistance from the FBI’s Nashville office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Jones of the Middle District of Tennessee and Senior Counsel Anthony V. Teelucksingh of the Criminal Division’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section prosecuted the case.