Florida Department of Citrus Employee Allegedly Used Work Computers to Mine Cryptocurrency

A picture taken on February 6, 2018 shows a visual representation of the digital crypto-currency Bitcoin, at the 'Bitcoin Change' shop in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv. / AFP PHOTO / JACK GUEZ        (Photo credit should read JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture taken Feb. 6 shows a visual representation of the digital cryptocurrency Bitcoin at the ‘Bitcoin Change’ shop in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv.
JACK GUEZ/Getty Images

A Florida man who worked at the state Department of Citrus was arrested Tuesday after allegedly using several department computers to mine virtual currencies.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that Matthew McDermott, an information technology manager at the agency that regulates Florida’s citrus industry, faces felony charges of grand theft and official misconduct. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which made the arrest, said the 51-year-old was part of a cryptocurrency mining pool that split the costs and profits from the operation.

An internal audit earlier this year revealed that McDermott had spent $22,000 with a state credit card to buy more than 24 graphic processing units, which are needed to mine for virtual currency, including bitcoin and litecoin. The extensive computing power used over multiple devices sent the agency’s utility costs skyrocketing. From October 2017 to January 2018, utility bills jumped more than 40 percent.

Just last week, the attorney general of Louisiana opened an investigation into former IT staffers for using state hardware to mine virtual currencies. And the problem isn’t just domestic. Australian police are investigating two Bureau of Meteorology employees for allegedly using work computers to mine cryptocurrencies, and in February, a group of Russian scientists at a nuclear research center were arrested for the same crime.