A webmaster posted in the WebmasterWorld forums that he received a manual spam notification for "unnatural links" from Google on June 27th. He cleaned things up and quickly submitted a reconsideration request. Shortly after, on July 3rd, he received the response not that the penalty was revoked but rather there was no penalty to begin with.
How can it be that he received a message days before saying he had a penalty but then be told there was no penalty?
(1) It could have been a spam notification but I doubt that, I believe he checked his webmaster tools to verify the message.
(2) It could have been my situation where the penalty happened to have expired the day or so before the reconsideration request was submitted.
It is rare for that overlap to happen, but it does happen. All manual penalties expire, but they do get reissued shortly after.
So is Google lying to webmasters with fake penalty notifications or was this just a timing thing? I suspect a timing thing.
Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.
Image credit to BigStockPhoto for two faced lady