Software pioneer John McAfee found dead in Spanish prison cell

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US software pioneer John McAfee, 75, was found dead Wednesday in a prison cell in Barcelona, ​​Spain, McAfee lawyers said.

Hours earlier, a Spanish court had approved McAfee’s extradition to the United States, where he was to be tried for federal tax evasion.

Authorities are investigating the cause of death.

Eccentric and brash millionaire widely known for his eponymous antivirus software, McAfee sold his stake in the company in the mid-1990s and has spent his life traveling the world and frequently stumbling into legal trouble.

Eventually he landed on an island off the coast of Belize, where he operated a sumptuous estate known to be the site of raging parties and illicit behavior. He fled the property after being named a suspect in a murder there.

McAfee bragged about being a tax dodge in a 2019 tweet, just as federal investigators were watching him.

He couldn’t run forever.

Mcafee has been arrested in October 2020 in Spain for failing to file 2014-2018 tax returns in Tennessee and concealing assets, including a yacht.

In a separate investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued McAfee for a “pump and dump scheme” in which he allegedly collected $ 23 million in undisclosed compensation by pushing cryptocurrencies on his Twitter page.

“McAfee’s recommendations were materially false and misleading,” according to the SEC complaint, also from October 2020.

Federal authorities deposited in addition a civil case against McAfee for the same actions.

McAfee’s attorney Nishay Sanan told NPR he intends to fight all charges.

“It’s again the US government trying to erase John McAfee. And that’s what it’s always going to be,” Sanan said. “This man was a fighter. And in the minds of everyone who knew him, he will always be a fighter.”

There was more to the legal cloud hanging over McAfee.

In 2012 he was arrested in Guatemala, where he was accused of entering the country illegally. He was seeking political asylum after taking a high-profile theft from his home in Belize following the murder of his neighbor. Investigators said McAfee was “a person of interest” in the murder.

McAfee’s house on Belize Island was known as a party house, with many women living there, in addition to several large dogs. His former neighbor, Gregory Faull, reportedly complained about the animals. One day, McAfee discovered that the dogs had been poisoned. Shortly after, Faull was found dead.

“John definitely has nothing to do with it,” McAfee spokesperson Brian Fitzgerald said, Told NPR in 2012.

McAfee was proud to outsmart the authorities. He once bragged about escaping the police by dressing as a German tourist in a Speedo and once again as an angry homeless man.

He insisted once, in a 2015 interview with WBBJ, a Tennessee television station, that he be interviewed with a loaded gun in each hand.

“Very little makes me feel safe and more secure other than being armed in my room with the door locked,” McAfee told the station.

Despite everything, he made two attempts to run for president.

In 2015, McAfee announced a White House offer with libertarian values ​​and an affiliation he created with a nod to his Silicon Valley past: the Cyber ​​Party.

“Personal freedom and privacy are paramount,” McAfee Told Larry King on his presidential candidacy. “I have been incarcerated several times. I am a person of civil disobedience.”

CeCe Craig, former McAfee home manager in Woodland Park, Colorado, lived on the McAfee property for years in the early 2000s and said she knew a happier side to the software legend.

“I had the best of John McAfee. He loved his yoga retreats. He loved to play the grand piano. We walked his land a lot,” she told NPR. “I learned a lot from him. When I lived with him, he was adamant against drugs and alcohol to focus on his yoga,” she said.

“He was a nerd. That’s how I’ve always seen him.”

In one of the his last interviews, on the Delphi podcast, just before his arrest in Spain, McAfee was wearing a blazer and sunglasses and appeared disarmed, screaming and cursing the host about Bitcoin. He also expressed his disdain for income taxes. When asked if that meant he didn’t want to return to the United States, he got a quick response.

“No, I want to live in an America. I just can’t,” he said. “They won’t let me in, what can I tell you?”

NPR’s Carrie Kahn contributed reporting.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To learn more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

John McAfee is dead. He was 75 years old. McAfee was a millionaire who founded the famous antivirus software that bears his name. NPR’s Bobby Allyn is joining us for more. And Bobby, first, just give us more details on where he was and how he died.

BOBBY ALLYN, BYLINE: John McAfee had been in jail in Spain since last October and was wanted in the United States in three separate investigations related to tax evasion and a so-called pump-and-dump scheme involving cryptocurrency . Today, just earlier today, Audie, a Spanish court, approved his extradition to the United States for trial. Soon after, however, his lawyer, Nishay Sanan, confirmed to NPR that he was found dead in his cell.

NISHAY SANAN: Again, the US government is trying to erase John McAfee – and that’s what it’s always going to be. This man was a fighter. And in the minds of everyone who knew him, he will always be a fighter.

CORNISH: But the American authorities had a different point of view. What exactly were the cases against him about?

ALLYN: Yeah, they did indeed. So, federal prosecutors say McAfee was a tax dodge, that he willfully failed to pay taxes from 2014 to 2018. And in another case, the Security (ph) and Exchange Commission said he earned some money. $ 23 million by pumping cryptocurrency through its Twitter page and then throwing it away at a profit. There was a third Federal Trade Commission case, and it involved this same alleged behavior.

Now McAfee hasn’t been hiding it, Audie. He was brash enough not to pay taxes. I mean, he once tweeted that he hadn’t paid taxes for eight years because, I quote, “taxation is illegal.” And, you know, McAfee was a famous libertarian. He was very colorful, a sort of larger than life character. And he once launched a long-running presidential candidacy in what he called the Cyber ​​Party.

CORNISH: You noticed he was a larger than life character. How will he remember?

ALLYNE: Yeah. His Twitter bio says this – iconoclast, lover of women, adventure and mystery, founder of McAfee Antivirus. And I spoke to someone who knew him very well and who used to live in one of his properties in Colorado. And she told me that McAfee loves yoga retreats. He loved to play his grand piano. He liked to take long walks in nature.

He moved to the Caribbean in 2009 after losing most of his fortune in the Great Recession, and that’s when his legal problems really started. He was arrested in this very strange case in Guatemala for illegal entry into the country. And, you know, that was after he was named, Audie, as the person of interest in his neighbor’s murder in Belize. So suffice to say that there has been a lot of fuss around McAfee.

CORNISH: And the company he founded, which still bears his name, how did they react?

ALLYNE: Yeah. They released a statement, you know, saying that, you know, their hearts go out to the family of John McAfee, but that John McAfee hasn’t been associated with the company in any capacity for over 25 years. .

CORNISH: Before I let you go, Bobby, was there another word from McAfee, I guess, if there’s – is – or was it just the defense who spoke?

ALLYNE: Yeah. At this time, our confirmation comes from his US-based defense attorney, so we have no news of the McAfee estate. But, you know, as the news comes in, we’ll be sure to update you.

CORNISH: This is Bobby Allyn from NPR.

Thank you for your report.

ALLYN: Thanks, Audie.

(EXTRACT FROM CLUSTER AND “ENO” SELANGE) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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