After repeated burnout, he no longer wanted to work as a nurse and wanted to make a living until he retired – which is why he extorted around half a million euros in the cryptocurrency Bitcoin from the drugstore chain dm in September 2019. At the start of the trial before the Karlsruhe Regional Court, the 53-year-old defendant made a comprehensive confession on Thursday.

In order to emphasize his claim, he detonated an explosive device in a Freiburg dm branch near the cat food. There was damage of 20,000 euros. Nobody got hurt. The homemade explosive device with a timer detonated outside of business hours. “I didn’t want to harm anyone,” the accused said in court. However, he wanted to create as much “disorder” in the store as possible so that his demands would be taken seriously.

The extent of the destruction in the branch was shown in pictures in court: goods are scattered all over the floor. It was a coincidence that the dm branch in Freiburg was hit: the store was easily accessible, according to the accused. He only wanted to meet a company that would be “least hurt” by such a payment.

Out of concern for its customers and employees – dm has around 4,000 branches in 14 countries across Europe – the drugstore company paid around 500,000 euros in Bitcoin. After the explosion in the branch, the blackmailer threatened in a letter of confession that “this warning shot got off more than lightly”. Previously, he had sent identical blackmail letters to the then dm boss Erich Harsch and two senior employees.

Work as a nursing specialist in Switzerland

If the company hadn’t paid, how far did the man really want to go? The accused German grew up in Augsburg and Konstanz. After graduating from high school and doing community service, he got by with various jobs, got his pilot’s license and, at the age of 30, trained as a nursing specialist. Most recently, he worked in a Swiss psychiatric clinic because he earned more there.

Charcoal shirt, canvas shoes, in court he presented himself solid and cooperative. He explained the act with a mental illness and burnout after many night shifts. “I didn’t know what to do anymore.” And he asked himself, “What can you do to stop having to go to work?” The weapons collector remembered his know-how with bitcoins and fireworks. He was able to organize the ingredients for the explosives in Switzerland without any difficulties. He had the box of cat food at home, which he prepared with explosives and disguised with glasses and a wig and put on the shelf shortly before the store closed. His cat had just died. “I’ve always bought cat food from dm.”

Bought three cars and a motor boat

The defendant said he mixed the stolen bitcoins with other cryptocurrencies to disguise them. Later converted into real money, he bought three cars and fulfilled a dream: he got his boat license and bought a motorboat, which he used to sail to France.

He had long thought he was safe when the handcuffs clicked after almost three years. Despite the cover-up, the investigators, with the help of an expert in cryptocurrencies, found the digital trail of the blackmailed bitcoins by tracing transaction chains. Thanks to further information, the 53-year-old German was finally identified as a suspect and arrested. He has been in custody since the end of July last year.

The public prosecutor’s office accuses him, among other things, of particularly serious predatory extortion and causing an explosive explosion. A verdict is expected after Easter.