John McAfee, who built a fortune selling cybersecurity software and has in recent years become a cryptocurrency evangelist, has been indicted on charges of tax evasion by the Department of Justice (DOJ). He has been arrested in Spain and is awaiting extradition, the DOJ said.
McAfee has had a contentious association with the law for years, though it’s at times unclear which run-ins are real and what has been fabricated. A former 2020 US Presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party (yes, really), he claimed that the campaign was “in exile” after he was charged with “using Crypto Cuttencies [sic] in criminal acts against the U. S. Government” in January 2019. In that same video, he said he hasn’t paid taxes in eight years. (That will matter later.) He also claimed the CIA had “attempted to collect us” in a July 2019 tweet with a photo of him on a boat holding a gun, part of an adventure that ended in his arrest and release in the Dominican Republic.
The tax evasion, at least, appears to be real
The full indictment released today (PDF) alleges that McAfee dodged taxes through various means, including using other people’s names — directing payments towards bank accounts, cryptocurrency accounts, real estate, a yacht, and another unnamed type of vehicle, none of which were in his own name. McAfee is also being indicted for willfully failing to file tax returns from 2014 through 2018. If convicted, McAfee faces up to five years in prison 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.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has also sued McAfee for not disclosing that he was paid to promote initial coin offerings (ICOs) on Twitter from December 2018 to January 2018, despite allegedly being paid more than $23 million in Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency Ether to do so. (McAfee would later put a public price on his promotions of $105,000 per tweet.) McAfee’s bodyguard was also charged for his participation in the scheme. You can read a PDF of the SEC’s full complaint here.
McAfee was also the focus of a 2016 Showtime documentary that suggested he paid a hitman to kill a neighbor while he lived in Belize in November 2012. You can read The Verge’s stories about that event here. And Intel, which briefly owned the McAfee cybersecurity company, said it would phase out the McAfee brand because of the associations with John McAfee in 2014. The company was eventually spun back out of Intel as McAfee in 2017.