What just happened? John McAfee’s name may adorn a very popular piece of software, but the man himself is more famous for a life straight out of a Hollywood movie—and the story is far from over. The Department of Justice (DoJ) has announced that the founder of the first commercial antivirus program has been indicted for tax evasion. He's been arrested in Spain and is now awaiting extradition.
The June 15, 2020, indictment, which was unsealed yesterday, claims McAfee failed to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018 despite earning “millions in income from promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements, and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary.”
The indictment claims McAfee dodged taxes through a number of methods, including using other people’s names for directing payments to their bank accounts and when buying real estate and a yacht.
The DoJ announcement came on the same day that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued McAfee for promoting initial coin offerings (ICOs) via his Twitter account without revealing he was paid to do so.
Chinese satire of my escape from Belize: pic.twitter.com/tiQA7NYpSZ— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) October 2, 2020
The SEC writes that McAfee received $23 million in digital assets for the promotions, and alleges he denied receiving any compensation when asked by investors. It also states that McAfee made other misleading claims, including that he had personally invested in some of the ICOs he was promoting.
His bodyguard, Jimmy Watson, Jr., was also charged for his role in the alleged scheme. It’s claimed he helped transfer and cash out the cryptocurrency that McAfee received, negotiated some of the deals with ICO issuers, and got his then-spouse to tweet interest in one of the ICO’s McAfee was promoting. Watson allegedly received $316,000 for his part.
McAfee did admit in 2018 that he charged $105,000 for promotional tweets, but he'd been promoting ICOs for years before publicly revealing his compensation payments.
If convicted of the DoJ charge, McAfee faces up to five years behind bars for each of the five counts of tax evasion, and up to one year in prison for each of the five counts of failing to file a tax return.
McAfee, a former 2020 US presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, once promised to “eat his d*ck” on national television if bitcoin failed to reach $1 million, a bet he wisely backed out of at the start of the year—the crypto is currently at $10,732. You can read more about his antics in our Drama, Drugs, and Data feature.