Feds Accuse John McAfee 'Crypto Team' of Fraudulently Pocketing Over $13 Million

Bitcoin Stock Image
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Stop us if you've heard this before: John McAfee has been accused of a crime. This time it's because he allegedly pocketed $13 million from people who, prompted by McAfee's tweets, wanted to profit from the cryptocurrency boom of 2017 and 2018.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a press release on Friday that McAfee and the executive adviser of his cryptocurrency team, Jimmy Watson, "exploited a widely used social media platform and enthusiasm among investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and deception."

Which is the legalese way of saying McAfee and Watson were accused of lying on Twitter, convincing people they should invest in the booming cryptocurrency market, and then pocketing nearly $2 million between the two of them. FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. described it as "an age-old pump-and-dump scheme."

McAfee and Watson were also accused of using Twitter to promote Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) without disclosing the compensation they received for doing so. The press release claimed, "the ICO Issuers were paying the McAfee Team a substantial portion of the funds raised from ICO investors for their touting efforts."

The two were charged with "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." Watson was arrested in Texas on Thursday and was expected to be presented to a judge Friday.

As for McAfee, well, he was already being detained in Spain because the U.S. Department of Justice's Tax Division has accused him of tax evasion. Which is probably as good a time as any to run down a condensed list of the other times McAfee has run into trouble with the law, to put it mildly, over the last few years.

McAfee was previously accused of manufacturing methamphetamine (in 2009) and ordering a hit against a neighbor (in 2012) in Belize, then of illegally entering Guatemala to evade those charges, and he ended up faking a heart attack to stop the Guatemalan authorities' efforts to deport him to Belize.

And so McAfee returned to the U.S. He wanted to run for president in 2016, but lost the Libertarian Party to Gary Johnson. He became the Chief Cybersecurity Visionary of MGT Capital Investment in August 2017, but the company broke things off in January 2018. Then, of course, he tried to run for president again in 2020.

Now he's been charged in Manhattan's federal court for these cryptocurrency schemes. Oh, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission have filed civil suits against him and his team, too.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • derekullo
    Lets invest 40% of your portfolio in Dogecoin, 30% in Bitcoin Gold and 30% in Verge ...

  • Co BIY
    I can see how extreme paranoia could lead to strokes of cybersecurity genius. And a pretty dysfunctional life.
  • NightHawkRMX
    McAfee is back at it again...
  • pjmelect
    I don’t know where he finds the time to do all of that, running a commodities and securities fraud, while being detained in Spain on tax evasion. Makes me wonder how many other schemes he has.