BARTOW — An information-technology manager at the Florida Department of Citrus is in jail following his arrest on felony charges related to using department computers to create virtual currencies.
Matthew McDermott, 51, of Davenport, was charged with grand theft and official misconduct 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 at Polk County Jail in lieu of $5,000 bail.
The department’s Office of Inspector General initiated the investigation this year when an audit showed McDermott had used a department credit card to buy 24 computer-graphics cards for more than $22,000 between July and December last year.
The inspector general's office 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 computers to complete mathematical equations, which uses a lot of electricity. A mining pool splits the costs and profits from the operation.
The virtual currencies McDermott’s pool was creating included 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 news release. “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's office for their swift actions in the case.
McDermott has been “separated” from the department, spokeswoman Shelley Rossetter said. She declined to elaborate.
The Citrus Department is a state agency charged with promoting Florida citrus product and regulating commercial citrus operations.