Suspicious computers were discovered in a school basement. Now the caretaker is on trial.

Even if the hype surrounding cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin has long subsided: For a while, Bitcoin, Ethereum and Co. stood for the dream of fast money like hardly anything else. Apparently, a man in the US city of Cohasset, near Boston, also wanted to implement it. He is now on trial for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars worth of electricity to run a crypto farm.

The prosecution accuses him of this in a process that began on Friday. Nadeam N. worked as an assistant janitor at Cohasset High School until a year ago. And is said to have used this position to secretly build up a nice side business at the expense of the city.

Crypto forge in the basement shaft

It was discovered at the end of 2021. During a routine investigation of the school, a city employee came across something strange in an intermediate basement. In a duct through which the school’s air conditioning and heating ducts ran, he discovered several makeshift cables. And a whole battery of computers placed there. “They seemed out of place there,” Justin Shrair, the local police department’s IT expert, told Ars Technica.

The authorities quickly called for reinforcements. The town’s head of IT was able to quickly identify the computers as a so-called mining rig. So as a computer network that was optimized for mining crypto coins. The operator tapped the Internet connection and the electricity from the school administration. The Coast Guard and the Department of Homeland Security, which is responsible for IT security, were quickly called in to have the setup professionally removed.

After three months of investigations, suspicion fell on N. He worked as a facility manager for the city and was responsible for maintaining the infrastructure of public buildings. And therefore also had access to the shafts in the school building.

Mining Crypto Coins

The action came at the height of the last crypto boom. When the first computer used went online in April, the crypto market had already picked up again, and many coins had already increased tenfold compared to the previous year. The hype continued almost unabated until the servers were discovered in December, and by the end of November the value of the coins had more than doubled. “He was effectively making money,” crypto expert Larry Glazer told CBS. To put it simply, mining for crypto coins requires solving highly complex arithmetic tasks in order to generate new coins.

The decision to hide the eleven computers found in the school basement instead of operating them at home may have a simple reason: digging consumes a lot of electricity, explains Glazer. “Something like that is otherwise not worthwhile in New England because of the high electricity costs.” In fact, N. is now accused of having stolen almost $18,000 (about 17,000 euros) in electricity costs from the school and thus from the taxpayer.

The 39-year-old has been in court since Friday. In the police interviews, he repeatedly denied having anything to do with the computers. However, because he wrote several times about crypto on his Twitter account – the existence of which he also denied and then had to admit – he came into the focus of the police, reports the “Boston Globe”. Various purchases made using his credit card are also mentioned by the police as evidence. However, he did not make a good first impression on the judges: because he did not appear for his first summons on Thursday, he was briefly wanted on an arrest warrant before the court hearing on Friday. He is now due to be tried in May. He faces up to two years in prison.

Quellen:CBS, Boston Globe, Ars Technica