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January 28, 2023

A Picture of a Cat Led to a Suspect in the Stolen Romney Tax Returns Caper

Remember when all anyone could talk about was Mitt Romney's tax returns? Sure you do. Do you also remember when some anonymous group claimed to have broken into PwC's Franklin, Tennessee office, stole said tax returns and then demanded $1 million in Bitcoins? Of course!

At the time, everyone seemed to think that this was a not-so elaborate hoax and that the tax returns hadn't really been stolen but, DAMMIT we wanted to see those tax returns so we can be OUTRAGED at Mitt Romney's spectacular wealth and garden-variety rich guy tax compliance. We craved those returns like Victoria Secret runway models crave Ben & Jerry's Phish Food, so this was A STORY. 

The story died a quick death, however, as we all had certainly moved on to something of much higher substance by the following week. But you know who wasn't done with it? The Secret Service. And, presumably after some convos with PwC and a little detective work, the SS decided to pay someone a visit:

Michael Brown, 34, told The Daily that about 30 Secret Service agents, some with guns drawn, broke down the door of his Franklin, Tenn., home, at dawn on Sept. 14, handcuffed him and his wife and grilled the couple about their knowledge of the scheme. “They said, ‘You’re being detained. We’re here looking for Romney’s tax returns,’ ” said Brown.

Jesus. Thirty Secret Service Agents? If you've ever been knowingly in the presence of Secret Service agents you know that these guys are ALL BUSINESS. If you happen to engage one in conversation, one wrong utterance could wind you up being interrogated inside a room with no lights and no windows. 

Anyway, Brown is an IT guy and had been investigated by the feds before, so his profile might fit, but there was one crucial piece of evidence:

The agents seized his computers and told Brown they had numerous pieces of evidence against him — including the digital snapshots of two cats. The note demanding $1 million, along with the flash drive containing the photos, was sent to PriceWaterHouseCoopers. Although the ransom was not paid, the tax returns were never released to the public, as threatened. […] According to Brown, the agents separated the couple and questioned his wife about the photos of the cats. “They didn’t want to show anything to me. They did it to my wife. They said, ‘These are your cats,’” he said. “When she objected, they were like, ‘Yes, they are.’ ” During the raid, an agent even snapped photos of the Brown family’s two pet cats, Baxter, a Himalayan longhair, and Jesse, an orange tabby.

Apparently the feline above is neither Baxter nor Jesse, but investigators aren't done with Brown yet; he has set up a website to accept donations to get through the investigation as he has yet to be charged with anything. You can donate using Paypal, and Meow Mix would be nice but definitely not Bitcoins.

Felines of Confusion [The Daily via BI]

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