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U.S. Probing Claim That Romney’s Tax Returns Were Stolen

The U.S. Secret Service is investigating reports that Mitt Romney’s tax returns have been stolen from an accounting firm and are being held for ransom.

Federal officials are probing a claim by an anonymous group that it broke into a PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP office in Nashville, Tennessee, and stole copies of the Republican presidential nominee’s tax returns.

“We are working closely with the United States Secret Service, and at this time there is no evidence that our systems have been compromised or that there was any unauthorized access to the data in question,” Caroline Nolan, a spokeswoman for PwC, said yesterday in a statement.

George Ogilvie, a spokesman for the Secret Service, confirmed the agency is investigating the reports and declined to comment further.

The anonymous group sent a letter to Romney’s accounting firm and political offices in Tennessee demanding $1 million in Bitcoins, a type of Internet currency, to prevent the disclosure of the candidate’s tax returns. Romney’s tax returns have become an issue in the presidential campaign as Democrats pushed the former Massachusetts governor to release more than the two years he has promised.

The anonymous group said it gained access to PwC’s network file servers at one of the company’s Tennessee offices and copied Romney’s tax documents. News organizations would be sent “an encrypted copy of the most recent tax years that your company had on file since you did not have them all in a convenient electronic form,” the group said in a copy of the letter posted online.

“If the parties interested do not want the encrypted key released to the public to unlock these documents on September 28 of this year then payment will be necessary.”

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