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
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.