Thursday, September 06, 2012

The great tax return blackmail plot: As always, I have a little theory...

Most people think that the great Romney tax document caper is bogus. Maybe. But this post from the alleged thieves is pretty interesting...
Romney's 1040 tax returns were taken from the PWC office 8/25/2012 by gaining access to the third floor via a gentleman working on the 3rd floor of the building. Once on the 3rd floor, the team moved down the stairs to the 2nd floor and setup shop in an empty office room. During the night, suite 260 was entered, and all available 1040 tax forms for Romney were copied. A package was sent to the PWC on suite 260 with a flash drive containing a copy of the 1040 files, plus copies were sent to the Democratic office in the county and copies were sent to the GOP office in the county at the beginning of the week also containing flash drives with copies of Romney's tax returns before 2010. A scanned signature image for Mitt Romney from the 1040 forms were scanned and included with the packages, taken from earlier 1040 tax forms gathered and stored on the flash drives.
Seems to me that the thieves knew the interior layout of PriceWaterhouseCooper rather well. If the description given above were incorrect, investigators would have told the press. Presumably.

In a previous post, I wondered why the thieves offered no proof that they had the goods. Apparently, the scan of Romney's signature is supposed to function as said proof. 

Some news reports have stated that Anonymous ("Expect us...") is behind this intriguing business. In fact, the messages do not claim to be from Anonymous. Physical black bag jobs ain't their style.

I've read that Romney's actual tax documents (from the one year he has released) run to a couple hundred pages. If the burglars copied the returns for multiple years -- and if we're talking about physical documents copied with a camera, CREEP-style -- then the burglars must have been at work for a long, long time.

On the other hand, if the thief simply transferred digitized copies, then why do the burglars speak of scanning in Mitt Romney's signature? You would do that kind of scanning only if you're working from paper.

(Note: From this point forward, I'm going to refer to "the thief" instead of "the thieves." I have a hunch that we're dealing with just one guy.)

Some wags have said that the poor grammar of these messages indicates a hoax. I disagree. Hackers and scalawags aren't the best prose stylists.

Why would the tax returns be in offices in Tennessee? Why not Massachusetts?

On the other hand: If the location of the documents in Tennessee were inherently absurd, the Romney camp and the Secret Service probably would have said so by now. Perhaps the person behind this little scheme knows something about Romney's taxes (or about the internal workings of PWC) that the rest of us do not.

The messages include two "recognition phrases" meant to authenticate future communications:
1.all these considerations did not deter me from the path of duty
2.he moment I understood the will of my Heavenly Father
I've read that that these two lines derive from Mormon literature. Of course, publishing the code phrase renders it useless as an authentication tool. Perhaps these lines are meant to convey a further message as to motive? We need context!

The comments on this site may be of interest:
But, it isn't particularly hard to sneak into a Big 4 office. I've worked in two and depending on how strict the building security is, once you're past it, it's pretty easy to get into the office.
Anyone who's ever seen the Tax department in a PwC office knows that it's a fucking train wreck. If someone were to actually get in there, it would probably take them hours and hours to sift through the piles of random papers, files and empty pizza boxes to find what they're looking for. Even the PwC Tax staff can't find what they're looking for half the time. All PwC staff are familiar with the weekly office-wide e-mails with the subject line something to the effect of "Has anyone seen the file for XYX client?"  PwC Tax's "filing system" is the perfect defense for this sort of potential crime.
Another comment indicates that PWC would treat Romney's tax returns a little more carefully than they would treat those of the average client:
I worked down the hall from the guy at PwC who prepared the tax return for a very wealthy, very famous media mogul.  (Wealthy enough to discover that certain software could only handle ten-digit incomes, not 11 digits.)  Rumor had it that that person's tax return was on a different software license so that nosy staffers like me couldn't try to get into it out of curiousity.  PEven so, that return was password protected.  The senior manager who prepared it didn't staff out the data entry or general tax prep, instead, he did the prep himself.  (I suspect a very discreet person was found in reality, but it certainly wasn't sent to an offshore service center.)  Paper copies certainly weren't left laying around, even drafts.  Certainly not client-signed versions of the final return.
(An 11 digit income? I doubt it!)

Bogus or factual, the break-in claim allows us to make a few presumptions about the person behind this scheme:

1. He (presuming that we're dealing with a he) is either a Mormon or very conversant with Mormonism.

2. He knows the interior layout of the building in question.

3. He lives within driving distance of Franklin, Tennessee, where the jump drives were sent.

If we posit that the break-in claim is factual, we can infer the following:

4. The blackmailer had a source within PWC who told him that the documents were, for God-knows-what reason, in the Tennessee office.

5. This same inside source knew precisely where to go within that office to find the documents.

In light of all of the above, I'd like to offer up a little theory. (Hey, it's me. Of course there's a little theory.) What if the messages and the jump drives actually came from someone working for PWC who is trying to create the impression that the offices were burgled? What if the thief is a simple accountant? Remember: The Mona Lisa was stolen by a guy working for the Louvre on restoration projects; when he walked out carrying a painting, he looked like he was doing his usual job.

The "accountant" scenario would explain why our alleged burglar was able to waltz past security, why he knew precisely where the documents were located, how he was able to access the files, and how he was able to copy so much. If the accountant is a Mormon, he may have become miffed if he noticed that Mitt shortchanged his tithe. The encryption key he has threatened to release on the 28th may be the same key used within PWC.

If my little theory has any merit, then the authorities will probably make an arrest quite soon. If, on the other hand, this whole thing is a hoax, the hoaxer may never be caught.
A story was given about getting an office in the same building to get past security. If so it would make an inside job unlikely, and would either lead to a quick arrest or indicate a sophisticated false identity. Maybe.

Also, the flash drives weren't sent but rather hand-delivered. Presumably no fingerprints were found or, again, a quick arrest might be expected. Ballsy or stupid?

Then there's the bitcoin angle, if he gets a million in bitcoins it'll be a bitch to cash out.
I think it was the late 80's when the famous con 'The White Salamander' was executed by a brilliant forger who was a Mormon. He took the Mormon Hierarchy for hundreds of thousands. I can see what you're saying about the language used, and the $million in ransom. There is a bona fide worship of wealth superficially disguised in their doctrines. Could be just another MeroniMammon coveting wealth.

But if it's some other source, I hope they rat-fuck Romney, taking the money then releasing the docs, anyway.

I think it's a hoax, but you've ignored two of the most obvious "false flag" possibilities.
Joe....I have no theory about what happened or even if it happened as it's being reported, but I worked in that complex of buildings and the security there is minimal.

The outside doors are key card after business hours and keypad inside doors. Not all inside doors have keypads, some just standard door locks.

I've watched people walk into those building after hours by simply following the key card holder in front of them. It's not exactly where I'd think Mitt Romney would hide his tax returns which may be why they were there.
10 billion is the smallest base 10 11 digit number. Can I conceive of making 10bn in one tax year? Well probably not.

Generally, the richest billionaires in the US are worth less than 50bn. So while its possible it wouldnt generally happen.
Let me add that it's been a few years since I worked there, so they may have beefed up security, but I doubt it. It's just your standard run-of-the-mill complex of large buildings renting space to small and medium sized businesses.
Anything more you can tell us, aNonOMouse? That was pretty interesting.

Although the security may be minimal, it doesn't seem like the kind of thing that, say, the LulzSec hackers could have gotten through. Although I see that there ARE YouTube videos on getting past a keypad lock...

But still: How would our burglar know where to look?

There had to be, at the very least, some insider info...
Joe....I really don't know much more about the buildings except that the security was minimal. After thinking about it, I do remember that there were also some offices with inside key card locks. The business I worked for had offices on mutiple floors and they had a couple of internal office areas where a key card was required to enter the offices after exiting the elevator. I imagine that each business decided it's own level of security. Wish I could be more help.

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