PAW PAW, Mich. — The Van Buren County Sheriff's Office is investigating a crime unlike any other it has ever encountered.
Detectives mostly investigate drug crimes, but now they've got a cryptocurrency case in front of them for the first time ever.
Several bitcoin mining machines were stolen months from a single business in Van Buren County, according to the sheriff's office.
Those were found Tuesday after deputies served a search warrant at a home on Bellware Boulevard near 36th Street in Paw Paw, the sheriff's office said.
It's a useless crime for most people to commit, according to Lt. Casey Davis with the Van Buren County Sheriff's Office.
“Unless you are very knowledgeable in the background of these and very knowledgeable in how to set the up, this is literally scrap metal,” Davis said.
The stolen Bitcoin mining machines use algorithms to search for Bitcoin and dump money into a user's account.
“People think that they can take these machines and that they're just going to hook them up to a computer and they're going to start immediately dumping money into your account," Davis said. "It's not like that."
The machines aren't totally useless though, even for people who don't understand how Bitcoin mining works.
“We’re told that those were $10,000 per unit,” said Lt. Davis.
A total of nine machines were found when deputies executed their search in Paw Paw, according to Davis.
It took detectives a month to gather enough probable cause to obtain the search warrant, Davis said.
“In law enforcement every year, we're adapting to different trends, different technologies,” said Lt. Davis.
In this case, it doesn't appear the stolen machines actually mined any Bitcoin, Davis said.
He hopes it doesn't become a new trend.
“It’s something that possibly could become more common because each one of these machines range anywhere from $10,000 to $13,000," Davis said. "And they said that if Bitcoin is doing very well in the stock market, then the machine will sell for more."
No one had been arrested in the case as of Wednesday, Davis said.
Detectives are still gathering complaints to submit to the Van Buren County prosecutor, who will decide whether to authorize criminal charges.
The charges could include receiving and concealing stolen property, and drug charges because methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia was also found when the home was searched, according to the sheriff's office.