Suffolk County worker charged in digital currency mining scheme

An employee cost Suffolk County at least $6,000 in electricity bills by allegedly secretly installing dozens of machines at his workplace in a cryptocurrency mining scheme, authorities said Wednesday.

Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said Christopher Naples, 42, of Mattituck, who worked in the county clerk's office in Riverhead as an IT supervisor, is charged with several felonies including public corruption, grand larceny, and computer trespass.

He is accused of using the devices to mine Bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency. Cryptocurrency units are created by computers solving complex math equations, and the process can result in heavy electricity usage and high cooling costs. 

Naples has been employed by Suffolk County since 2000.

Authorities executed a search warrant at the County enter on August 19 that resulted in the seizure of 46 cryptocurrency mining devices which were found hidden in six rooms throughout the building, including underneath removable floorboards, on top or inside of server racks, and inside an unused electrical wall panel. 

Get breaking news alerts in the free FOX5NY News app | Sign up for FOX 5 email newsletters

"One of these rooms housed critically important computer servers, secure data storage systems, and communications equipment for the entire County government, and when investigators entered the room, an alarm was going off that indicated the temperature was too high," District Attorney Sini said. "Within hours of the devices being shut down, the temperature in the room dropped 20 degrees. So not only was this operation being paid for with thousands of dollars of taxpayer money, but it also put the County’s infrastructure at risk."

At least 10 of the devices had been running since February 2021. 

An email seeking comment was sent to Naples' attorney. He appeared in court on Wednesday and was released on his own recognizance.

"Mining cryptocurrency requires an enormous amount of resources, and miners have to navigate how to cover all of those electricity and cooling costs," Sini said in a statement announcing the arrest. Naples "found a way to do it; unfortunately, it was on the backs of taxpayers."

The investigation is ongoing into the amount and nature of any proceeds of Naples' alleged cryptocurrency mining operation. 

Naples faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted of the top count against him.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.