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U.S. authorities charge school staff over illegal crypto mining operation

u-s-authorities-charge-school-staff-over-illegal-crypto-mining-operation
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U.S. authorities charge school staff over illegal crypto mining operation

The United States Department of Justice has filed charges against two senior staff members of New Jersey’s Patterson Joint Unified School District for allegedly running a crypto mining farm. 

In a recent statement, The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) asserted that former Assistant Superintendent and Chief Business Officer of Patterson Joint Unified School District, Jeffrey Menge, orchestrated embezzlement schemes alongside the school district’s IT Director, Eric Drabert, from 2018 to 2022.

Drabert collaborated in running a crypto mining farm, using school district property and electricity. The mined cryptocurrency, between $1 million and $1.5 million, was transferred to their personal wallets.

However, the statement failed to specify the number of schools within the district involved in the crypto mining operation, despite the district encompassing 10 schools catering to approximately 6,200 students.

According to the court filing, the duo was also involved in additional theft methods and utilized Menge’s controlled Nevada company, CenCal Tech LLC, to conduct fraudulent transactions exceeding $1.2 million, involving double billing and billing for undelivered items.

Menge’s embezzlement allegedly totaled between $1 million and $1.5 million, while Drabert’s theft amounted to $250,000 to $300,000. These ill-gotten gains funded home renovations, purchasing luxury cars, including a Ferrari, and various personal expenses.

Per a statement, with support from the Stanislaus County District Attorney Bureau of Investigation and the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI is leading the inquiry, while Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Spivak oversees the prosecution.

The sentencing is slated for May 30, 2024, before U.S. District Judge Troy L. Nunley, where each defendant could potentially receive a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. 

However, the actual sentences will be at the court’s discretion, considering statutory factors and adherence to Federal Sentencing Guidelines.