A Tennessee man faces federal charges after a grand jury indicted him on counts of fraud and extortion, in a case stemming from claims made about tax documents of Republican Mitt Romney during last year's presidential campaign.
Michael Mancil Brown of Franklin, Tenn., is accused of attempting to carry out fraud and using "a facility of interstate commerce, to wit the Internet," to do so.
As we reported last year, the Secret Service joined in the investigation of the claims, made less than three months before Election Day.
Part of the evidence against Brown, authorities say, are computer records from last August that show he printed a map from the Internet that gave driving directions from his house to the local offices of Pricewaterhouse Coopers.
According to the indictment, Brown's activities on websites such as Pastebin.com and 4shared.com show that he posted claims about possessing the tax records, sometimes evoking the movie character "Dr. Evil" as he did so.
The court document says that Brown never compromised the accounting firm's computer systems, "and falsely stated that he had stolen tax documents for Willard M. Romney and Ann D. Romney for tax years prior to 2010."
Brown then "demanded US$1 million converted to 'Bitcoin' and instructed that this sum be deposited in a Bitcoin account for which he provide the account number," according to the document, to prevent the release of the documents.
A separate account was also established, and it was promised that the tax documents would be released if people, presumably opponents of Romney's, paid $1 million.
The indictment accuses Brown of sending letters making those demands and promises to several recipients, including Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Republican and Democratic Party offices in Tennessee.
The letters were printed not on Brown's computer but on a friend's, according to the indictment, as Brown had emailed the person, identified only as "P.H.," to ask to use their printer, using the excuse that his own printer was out of ink.