West Midlands Police discover illegal cryptocurrency mine

Expecting to find a cannabis farm, West Midlands Police discovered a cryptocurrency mine stealing thousands of pounds worth of electricity last week.

The police force executed a drugs warrant at a Black Country industrial unit in Sandwell, after receiving intelligence that the warehouse was being used to grow marijuana.

Police said it had heard how lots of people were visiting the unit at different times of day, while lots of wiring and ventilation ducts were visible, and a police drone picked up a considerable heat source from above.

These are classic cannabis factory signs, according to police. But when officers gained entry they found a huge bank of around 100 computer units as part of what’s understood to be a Bitcoin mining operation.

The IT equipment was seized and enquiries with Western Power revealed the electric supply had been bypassed and thousands of pounds worth had been stolen to power the ‘mine’.

“It’s certainly not what we were expecting! It had all the hallmarks of a cannabis cultivation set-up and I believe it’s only the second such crypto mine we’ve encountered in the West Midlands,” said Jennifer Griffin, Sandwell police sergeant. “My understanding is that mining for cryptocurrency is not itself illegal but clearly abstracting electricity from the mains supply to power it is.

Griffin said that the police have seized the equipment and will be looking into permanently seizing it under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

No-one was at the unit at the time of the warrant and no arrests have been made – but the police will make enquiries with the unit’s owner.

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