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Tennessee man gets 4 years in prison in Mitt Romney tax returns hoax

By Allen Cone
Tennessee man gets 4 years in prison in Mitt Romney tax returns hoax
A Tennessee man was sentenced to four years in prison for claiming that he hacked into the computer network of accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers to get the tax returns of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, demanding $1 million not to release them. File photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

NASHVILLE, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- A Tennessee man was sentenced to four years in prison for extortion and wire fraud involving the tax returns of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Michael Mancil Brown, 37, of Franklin, Tenn., was convicted in May on six counts of wire fraud and six counts of using facilities of interstate commerce to commit extortion.

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In 2012, he sent a letter to the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers claiming that he had access to its computer network and had stolen three years' worth of tax documents for Romney and Romney's wife, Ann. At the time, Romney was the Republican nominee for president and was being scrutinized for not releasing financial documents.

Brown demanded that the firm deposit $1 million in bitcoins into an account or he would release the tax documents he claimed to have.

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He sent similar letters to the offices of the Democratic and Republican parties in Franklin, and similar statements were posted to Pastebin.com.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Billy Roy Wilson ordered Brown to pay about $200,000 in restitution to the accounting firm.

The U.S. Secret Service's Nashville field office investigated the case with assistance from the FBI's Nashville division.

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"It is important to deter others," Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Jones said. "We're in the midst of another presidential election where again this decision not to release tax returns is again an issue. Other people need to know that's a candidate's decision, whether you agree with it or not. You can't hack in and steal other people's private information. All of us are vulnerable to threats of hacking and hacking hoaxes in the current environment. We need to put a stop to it."

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is facing public pressure — including from Romney himself — to release his financial documents. Trump said he won't release them because several years of returns are being audited.

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