Tennessee Man Convicted for Romney Tax Return Fraud and Extortion Scheme
Michael Mancil Brown was found guilty yesterday by a federal jury sitting in Nashville, for engaging in an extortion and wire fraud scheme involving former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s tax returns, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, First Assistant United States Attorney Jack Smith of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Tennessee and Todd Hudson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service, Nashville Field Office.
Brown, 37, of Franklin, Tenn., was convicted of six counts of wire fraud and six counts of using facilities of interstate commerce to commit extortion.
According to testimony at trial, evidence recovered from a computer seized from Brown’s home in 2012 implicated Brown in a scheme to defraud Romney, the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP 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.
Brown was found guilty of participating in the scheme in which a letter delivered in August 2012 to the offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers in Franklin, Tenn., 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. The letter also 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 that scheme, similar letters were delivered to the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties in Franklin and caused similar statements to be posted to Pastebin.com.
“The success of this prosecution is due to the excellent online investigative skill and computer forensic analysis demonstrated repeatedly by the United States Secret Service in this era of increasingly high tech criminal conduct,” said First Assistant United States Attorney Jack Smith. “Hackers, aspiring hackers and identity thieves are identified, caught, prosecuted and convicted because of the work and determination of the Secret Service to stay ahead of people who abuse new technology to commit age-old crimes of fraud and extortion.”
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled for a date likely in August. The defendant faces up to twenty years in prison on the charges of wire fraud, up to five years in prison on the charges of extortion, fines of up to $250,000, and orders of restitution to victims.
This case was investigated by the Nashville Field Office of the U.S. Secret Service with assistance from the Nashville Resident Agency of the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by U.S. Department of Justice Senior Counsel Anthony V. Teelucksingh and Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Jones of the Middle District of Tennessee.