Antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee has been charged with fraud and money laundering amid claims he and his business contacts made more than $US13 million by fooling investors over the emerging cryptocurrency market, authorities say.
The 75-year-old was charged in a newly unsealed indictment in Manhattan federal court along with Jimmy Gale Watson Jr, who served as an executive adviser on what prosecutors described as McAfee’s “so-called cryptocurrency team”.
Prosecutors said Watson, 40, was arrested on Thursday night in Texas and would make an initial appearance on Friday before a federal magistrate judge in Dallas.
McAfee, authorities said, was detained in Spain on separate criminal charges filed by the US Justice Department’s tax division.
“McAfee and Watson exploited a widely used social media platform and enthusiasm among investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and deception,” US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement describing crimes in 2017 and 2018.
“The defendants allegedly used McAfee’s Twitter account to publish messages to hundreds of thousands of his Twitter followers touting various cryptocurrencies through false and misleading statements to conceal their true, self-interested motives.”
In October, McAfee was charged in federal court in Memphis, Tennessee, with evading taxes after failing to report income made from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consulting work, made speaking engagements and sold the rights to his life story for a documentary.
McAfee developed early internet security software and has been sought by authorities in the US and Belize in the past.
The indictment out of Tennessee said McAfee failed to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018.
In July 2019, McAfee was released from detention in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-calibre weapons, ammunition and military-style gear.