Both the Democratic and Republican party offices in Williamson County received a letter and a flash drive last week allegedly containing the stolen tax records of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Secret Service agents confiscated the drives on Wednesday morning.
An anonymous individual or group claims they have gained "all available 1040 tax forms" of the presidential hopeful by accessing computers in the Franklin office of the professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
An anonymous posting on a text-sharing website states that PwC had been hacked. In the past, the same website has been used by hackers who have claimed to have infiltrated computers from companies like Apple.
The hackers asked for $1 million to prevent the information from being made public or to be given the encryption key to make the documents public.
A representative from The City Paper has seen both the letter and the drive, but GOP officials would not allow them to be photographed. Jean Barwick, the county Republican Party executive director, said that an envelope was found at the front door of their headquarters on main street in Franklin on Friday. The envelope was crudely addressed to Republican officials with the name of the party misspelled.
Williamson County Democratic chairman Peter Burr said that they received a similar manila envelope addressed in blue highlighter ink containing the letter "and a 4 gigabyte cruiser thumb drive."
"We opened it and found a typewritten sheet of paper. I almost threw it out. The only thing missing was a Nigerian prince," Burr said referencing the popular Internet scam. "It seems like it's someone looking for some gullible fool, but who knows?"
The Franklin office of PricewaterhouseCoopers directed all inquiries to the company's New York offices. A spokesman for PricewaterhouseCoopers said that they were unaware of any breech.
"We are aware of the allegations that have been made regarding improper access to our systems," a spokesman said. "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."
A spokesman for the Romney campaign told CNBC that they were aware of the claim and that "authorities are investigating."
Upon reading The City Paper's report, county GOP officials began contacting local and federal law enforcement to turn over the letter and drive.
An excerpt from the hacker letter details the alleged theft of the data:
"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."
Romney's tax records have been a source of contention throughout the presidential race as he has refused to release older returns which would detail the extent of his investments and foreign accounts.