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Bitcoin Extortionist Convicted in Romney Tax Return Fraud

Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:48 PM
Samburaj Das
Last Updated March 4, 2021 4:48 PM

 A Tennessee man was recently found guilty on charges of extortion and wire fraud scheme in the attempted extortion of former Republican Presidential nominee, Mitt Romney. The extortion scheme from 2012 saw the accused demand $1 million in bitcoin in exchange for purportedly stolen tax returns belonging to Romney.

A faux-hacker who tried to snag a million-dollar ransom in bitcoin in exchange for 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s tax records has been found guilty.

In an announcement  by the U.S. Department of Justice, Michael Mancil Brown, 37, was convicted of six counts of wire fraud and six counts of using facilities of interstate commerce to commit extortion.

In August 2012, Brown sent a letter to Romney’s accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), demanding $1 million in bitcoin. He claimed to have breached the company’s servers to obtain tax records belonging to Romney and his wife Ann. Notably, Romney was publicly criticized at the time for only releasing two years of his tax returns. Brown claimed to have obtained pre-2010 records of Romney’s tax returns. PwC refused to pay.

Brown then assumed the title of “Dr. Evil” and proceeded to publish a number of posts on Pastebin, stating that he had breached PwC servers to obtain Romney’s tax returns. Letters were even sent to Democratic and Republican offices in the same city of Franklin, Tenn. In this instance, Brown put up a different bitcoin address seeking $1 million in bitcoin from those who sought the tax records.

It wasn’t long before Brown’s home was raided by sleuths from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and discovered evidence of the extortion scheme from a seized computer.

As it turns out, the extortionist was anything but a hacker, with the FBI discovering no data of the alleged stolen tax records.

First Assistant United States Attorney Jack Smith stated:

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.

The conviction of Brown brings an early high-profile incident of extortion with bitcoin, near its end.

A sentencing hearing will be scheduled in August. Brown faces up to twenty years in prison for the wire fraud charges, five years on charges of extortion and fines of up to $250,000, as well as restitution to the victims involved.

Featured image from Shutterstock.