Oranges for Bitcoin: Florida Citrus Department Employee Caught Mining Crypto

An employee of Florida's Department of Citrus was charged with grand theft after purchasing several pieces of hardware using the government's money to mine cryptocurrency.

Florida is so famed for its oranges that it has seen fit for its state government to have a Department of Citrus. That department has now garnered media attention for what may seem a most unlikely reason: cryptocurrencies.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) announced on Tuesday that an employee of the Department of Citrus — Matthew McDermott — had been charged with grand theft on account of exploiting government resources to mine cryptocurrencies.

“The investigation was launched after FDLE agents received a complaint from the Citrus agency’s Office of Inspector General. The complaint followed an audit of [purchasing card] activity that found McDermott had made more than $22,000 in purchases between July 2017 and December 2017,” the report by the FDLE said.

It also noted that the purchases included no less than 24 GPUs, presumably what he used to mine cryptocurrencies on the government’s dime.

“FDLE agents learned that McDermott was accessing a virtual currency exchange from multiple computers at the Department of Citrus and was part of a mining pool,” the report stated further.

In addition to the purchases made by McDermott, the inspector general found that the Department of Citrus utility bills had jumped by more than 40% in a clear sign there was some mining activity involved.

Government computers aren’t necessarily the most efficient mining devices, especially since a number of them are still using Windows 3.1 on hardware built in the 1970s. In light of this fact,  it’s unlikely that McDermott would have been able to enjoy a significant payout without purchasing new systems and billing the government for them.

This case is similar to what unfolded earlier this month in Louisiana, where government IT staffers were fired over allegedly using computers designated for state services to mine cryptocurrency.

In the Louisiana case, however, the staffers mined their coins by using logic bombs — pieces of code inserted into an operating system to trigger an event at a certain time.

McDermott’s solution was to make an incredibly conspicuous purchase of several pieces of hardware, expecting that the government would not catch him.

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