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Roseau County couple stole vast amounts of electricity to run bitcoin farm, lawsuit alleges

ROOSEVELT, Minn. — A Minnesota power company says it has pulled the plug on a scheme that stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of electricity.

The apparent mastermind behind it is Ryan Jaenicke, a Roseau, Minnesota, man, who allegedly stole electricity to operate a bitcoin farm in Roosevelt, Minnesota.

The allegations are outlined in a 19 page civil suit filed in Roseau County Court.

North Star Electric Cooperative, based out of Baudette, Minnesota, is going after Jaenicke and Tina Fehlhaber, two business owners who were once a couple but recently separated.

For the past year Jaenicke has hosted a YouTube segment called, “Degenerate Passive Income,” a channel he says is dedicated to tapping into the power of passive income.

The civil suit accuses Jaenicke of having plenty of passive income by illegally tapping into the power of electricity.

“At the heart of it we see theft and greed,” said Joel Fremstad, the lawyer for North Star.

In many of the videos, Jaenicke talks about crypto currency as a quick way to get rich, showing off some of his bitcoin farms in the Roseau area and around Grafton in North Dakota.

However, the lawsuit alleges a bitcoin farm in Roosevelt was run off stolen electricity from North Star Electric Cooperative.

“Ultimately the losses will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Fremstad said.

The co-op noticed last year they were losing a “significant” amount of power.

During routine work this spring some workers uncovered the scheme.

North Star was able to trace a line to a home where police found more than two dozen crypto currency mining units, fans and other electronic devices to the abandoned home in Roosevelt.

Before police could seize the items as evidence, they were gone.

“It is more than you need to run a school for example or commercial building, and this as I said was going on for months if not years 24 hours a day,” Fremstad said.

The lawsuit says the bitcoin farm was setup at a property owned by Felhaber, Jaenicke’s former girlfriend.

It’s unclear if others may have been involved in the conspiracy.

While he was rejected, Jaenicke also tried to bribe a North Star employee to help get more power into the home, first with $2,000 and then with $5,000. He was rejected both times.

“He knew what he was doing, whether he made all the physical connections or just the ‘general contractor’ for this, that’s what we don’t yet know,” Fremstad said.

Multiples attempts to reach Jaenicke, who owns Northland Tire in Roseau, and Felhaber were not successful.

The Roseau County Attorney’s Office reviewed the case last summer and declined to prosecute citing a lack of evidence, noting that decision can be readdressed if more evidence comes up.

This could cost the couple, who just broke up a few weeks ago according to Jaenicke’s YouTube videos, a lot of money.

Fremstad says according to Minnesota law, if found liable, the couple could be forced to pay double the amount of electricity they stole plus any money made off of the crypto mining.

Roosevelt is roughly 130 miles north of Bemidji.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years.

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