NEW YORK – Antivirus entrepreneur John McAfee has been charged with fraud and money laundering, claiming he and cohorts earned more than $ 13 million by misleading zealous investors about the emerging cryptocurrency market, authorities said Friday. .
McAfee, 75, was charged with a newly printed indictment in Manhattan federal court, along with Jimmy Gail Watson Jr., who served as an executive adviser on what prosecutors described as McAfee’s “so-called cryptocurrency team.”
Prosecutors said the 40-year-old Watson was arrested Thursday night in Texas and will first appear before a federal magistrate in Dallas on Friday. Authorities say McAfee was detained in Spain on separate criminal charges filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Lawyer Arnold Spencer, representing Watson, said his client was a former naval seal.
“He is fighting for the rights and freedoms of others and has the right and looks forward to exercising some of those rights in court,” he said in an email.
“Criminal charges are dumb tools, not precise scalpels,” Spencer added. “This is not the place to discuss whether modern technologies such as cryptocurrencies are securities, commodities or something else.”
It was not immediately clear who could represent McAfee. There is still no lawyer registered for him in federal court in Memphis, Tennessee, where tax charges were filed against him in October.
“McAfee and Watson used the widely used social media platform and enthusiasm among investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to earn millions through lies and fraud,” said US lawyer Audrey Strauss in a statement describing the crimes in 2017 and 2018.
“The defendants claimed to have used McAfee’s Twitter account to post messages to hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers advertising various cryptocurrencies through false and misleading claims to disguise their true interests in themselves,” she added.
In October, McAfee was charged in Tennessee with tax evasion after failing to report income from promoting cryptocurrencies while consulting, engaging in speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary.
McAfee has developed early Internet security software and has been sought after by US and Belizean authorities in the past.
The Tennessee indictment says McAfee did not file tax returns from 2014 to 2018, despite receiving “significant revenue” from several sources.
In July 2019, McAfee was released from custody in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style equipment, Caribbean officials said at the time.