BARTOW – An information-technology manager at the Florida Department of Citrus was arrested Tuesday on felony charges related to using department computers to create virtual currencies.
Matthew McDermott, 51, of Davenport faces grand theft and official misconduct charges after his arrest by agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which conducted the investigation, according to an FDLE statement. He was being held in the Polk County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.
The department’s Office of Inspector General initiated the investigation earlier this year when an audit uncovered McDermott had purchased 24 computer-graphics cards at more than $22,000 between July and December last year with a department credit card.
The Inspector General also found the department’s electric bills had increased by 41 percent between October and January, or nearly $825.
FDLE investigators learned McDermott was part of a virtual-currency mining pool and had been accessing a currency exchange from multiple computers at the Citrus Department, the statement said.
Virtual currencies are created, or “mined,” using mathematical equations, and the computer processing uses a lot of electricity. The mining pool splits the costs and profits from the operation.
McDermott’s pool was creating virtual currencies including Bitcoin and Litecoin, according to FDLE.
“Through the diligence of the executive management team at the Florida Department of Citrus, our agency was able to minimize losses to the state,” FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in the statement. “Thanks to the Citrus agency’s quick and appropriate action, we were able to investigate and arrest Matthew McDermott.”
Shannon Shepp, executive director of the Department of Citrus, complimented the FDLE and the inspector general for their swift actions in the case.
Spokeswoman Shelley Rossetter told The Ledger that McDermott has been “separated” from the department. She declined to elaborate.
The Citrus Department is a state agency charged with promoting Florida citrus product and regulating commercial citrus operations.
Kevin Bouffard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 863-401-6980.