Infamous computer programmer John McAfee – currently incarcerated in a Spanish jail – has been officially charged with cryptocurrency fraud by US authorities.
The 75-year-old, who spent years on the run around the globe for tax avoidance, now faces possible extradition to the US where he is accused of conspiracy to commit fraud and money laundering.
Together with personal bodyguard Jimmy Watson Junior, he faces accusations of promoting various cryptocurrencies through social media in order to inflate prices before selling them off for £1.45m ($2m).
Gloucestershire-born Mr McAfee is yet to respond to the charges which were presented in the early hours of this morning. Mr Watson is understood to have been arrested on Thursday.
Watson’s lawyer – Arnold Spencer – commented: “Jimmy Watson is a decorated veteran and former Navy Seal. He fought for other people’s rights and liberties, and he is entitled to and looks forward to his day in court to exercise some of those very rights.”
Prosecutors in New York are citing allegations from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission which raised concern about McAfee’s use of Twitter to promote digital assets to his one million followers.
According to files submitted to the Federal Court in Manhattan, McAfee and Watson are said to have been selling crypto assets once they had been able to inflate their prices. The files allege they also landed some £8m ($11m) from various fledgling cryptocurrency organisations as payments to promote the start-ups.
According to prosecutor Audrey Strauss, they effectively “exploited a widely used social media platform and enthusiasm among investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and deception.”
Before being detained in Spain on tax evasion charges, Mr McAfee and his wife Janice had spent almost two years on the run from authorities aboard their yacht as they flitted between the Caribbean, Mediterranean, London, Estonia and various secret hideaways.