The tax evasion and securities fraud charges against John McAfee

The charges against John McAfee: Antivirus software pioneer was facing 10 counts of tax evasion in Tennessee and 7 counts of fraud and money laundering conspiracy in New York when he killed himself in jail

  • John McAfee, 75, hanged himself in his cell in the Brians 2 penitentiary near Barcelona Wednesday, according to the 75-year-old’s lawyer
  • His death came just hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the US for a string of tax evasion charges, which he said was ‘politically motivated’ 
  • McAfee was facing a 30-year sentence in the tax evasion case and a 100-year sentence in the fraud and money laundering case
  • The extradition only related to six counts – and a possible 18-year sentence – in the tax evasion case and could still have been appealed
  • McAfee was charged with five counts of tax evasion and five counts of willful failure to file a tax return in a June 2020 indictment unsealed in October
  • Tennessee prosecutors said he deliberately failed to file tax returns for four years between 2014 and 2018 while earning more than $12million
  • McAfee was also charged with seven counts of securities fraud in a separate case announced in Manhattan federal court in New York in March
  • Manhattan prosecutors said McAfee and his bodyguard Jimmy Gale Watson Jr promoted cryptocurrencies to his Twitter followers to raise prices

Antivirus software pioneer John McAfee was facing 10 counts of tax evasion in Tennessee and seven counts of fraud and money laundering conspiracy in New York when he was found dead in a Spanish jail.

McAfee, 75, hanged himself in his cell in the Brians 2 penitentiary near Barcelona Wednesday, according to his lawyer.

His death came just hours after a Spanish court approved his extradition to the US for a string of tax evasion charges, which the controversial entrepreneur had claimed were ‘politically motivated.’ 

He had been held behind bars in Spain since October when he was arrested at Barcelona airport about to board a flight to Istanbul.  

McAfee was facing a 30-year sentence in the tax evasion case and a 100-year sentence in the fraud and money laundering case.

The extradition only related to six counts in the tax evasion case and could still have been appealed. It would also have needed approval from the Spanish cabinet.  

John McAfee appears via videoconference during his extradition hearing at Audiencia Nacional court, in Madrid, Spain earlier this month. He has died behind bars at 75

McAfee was facing a 30-year sentence in the tax evasion case and a 100-year sentence in the fraud and money laundering case. He claimed the IRS charges were politically motivate after he ran as a Libertarian Party presidential candidate in 2016 (pictured) and 2020 

McAfee was charged with five counts of tax evasion and five counts of willful failure to file a tax return in a June 2020 indictment unsealed after his arrest.

The charges – brought by  the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Tennessee prosecutors – stemmed from allegations he deliberately failed to file tax returns between 2014 and 2018. 

Prosecutors alleged McAfee had earned millions in income from promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements, and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary. 

In total, the IRS said he earned more than $12million in the four years between 2014 and 2018. 

But the entrepreneur allegedly failed to file any tax returns.

Instead, he was accused of avoiding paying taxes by directing his income to bank accounts and cryptocurrency exchange accounts under the names of other people.

He also allegedly tried to evade the IRS by hiding assets, including real property, a vehicle and a yacht. 

Prosecutors do not allege that he received any income or had any connection with the anti-virus company he founded. 

If convicted of all charges, he could have faced up to 30 years in prison – five years on each count of tax evasion and one year on each count of willful failure to file a tax return.

McAfee was also charged with seven counts of securities fraud in a separate case announced in Manhattan federal court in New York in March.

The extradition only related to six counts in the indictment above and a possible 18-year sentence. It could still have been appealed

In that case, McAfee and his bodyguard Jimmy Gale Watson Jr were both charged with seven counts.

They are: conspiracy to commit commodities and securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities and touting fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and substantive wire fraud, and money laundering conspiracy offenses.

The charges stemmed from two schemes where the men allegedly promoted cryptocurrencies to McAfee’s more than one million Twitter followers in order to inflate prices.

Prosecutors said they then sold the cryptocurrencies when prices rose, earning them and other McAfee Team members more than $11million in payments.

They are accused of failing to disclose to investors that they were being paid to promote it.  

Watson was arrested in Texas in March after the charges were brought.  

McAfee is seen in Cuba in 2019. McAfee was also charged with seven counts of securities fraud in a separate case announced in Manhattan federal court in New York in March

Manhattan prosecutors brought the seven charges in the above indictment against McAfee and his bodyguard Jimmy Gale Watson Jr accusing them of a cryptocurrency scheme

Both McAfee and Watson faced up to 100 years in prison on these charges if convicted as well as financial penalties.  

The Spanish prosecutor said Wednesday McAfee could be extradited, but only to face charges related to his tax returns of 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the tax evasion case. 

These charges would have carried a maximum of 18 years in prison.   

It is not clear if he could have faced trial on the other charges related to both the Manhattan case and the Tennessee case after extradition to the US.

McAfee had claimed the charges filed by the Internal Revenue Service were politically motivated because he ran as a Libertarian Party candidate in both the 2016 and the 2020 presidential election. 

McAfee has had several other brushes with the law.

He fled Belize in 2012 when he was named a person of interest in the murder of his neighbor in the country.

Police had found him living with a 17-year-old girl with a large arsenal of weapons in his home. 

McAfee claimed he ran because he feared for his own safety while authorities later said he was not a suspect. The case has never been solved. 

McAfee fabricated a hoax arrest in August 2020 in Norway, claiming he had been charged for not wearing a medical mask and using his wife’s thong instead 

The neighbor’s family later filed a wrongful death suit against McAfee and in 2019 a court in Florida ordered him to pay out more than $25million.

In 2015, McAfee was then arrested in the US for driving under the influence. 

He fled his home in Tennessee in 2019, claiming a grand jury was preparing to indict him on tax-related charges.

That July, he was released from detention in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style gear, officials on the Caribbean island said at the time. 

He and his wife Janice went on from the Caribbean to Europe, where he fabricated a hoax arrest in August 2020, claiming he had been charged for not wearing a medical mask on a flight and using his wife’s thong instead. 

He was holing up in Spain when the two cases were brought against him last year. 

Officials confirmed Wednesday McAfee had been found dead in his jail cell in the Brians 2 penitentiary from an apparently suicide.   

The Catalan Justice Department said staff tried to resuscitate a 75-year-old man but he was pronounced dead.

‘Everything points to death by suicide,’ it said in a statement.  

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