John McAfee, the pioneer creator of popular computer antivirus software, has died behind bars in a Spanish prison. He was 75.
McAfee was found dead on Wednesday afternoon in his cell in Brians 2 Prison in Barcelona, with officials saying that the early investigation points to a suicide, the Catalan justice department said.
It came just hours after a Spanish court approved McAfee’s extradition to the United States, where he is wanted on tax-related criminal charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 30 years.
McAfee still had opportunities to appeal his conviction but could not stand more time in jail, his lawyer Javier Villalba told Reuters. ‘This is the result of a cruel system that had no reason to keep this man in jail for so long,’ Villalba said.
Villalba said that McAfee had committed suicide by hanging himself in his cell.
McAfee had been held in Spanish prison since his arrest in October, when the U.S. Justice Department announced charges that McAfee and his supporters insisted were politically motivated.
His death follows a wild, controversial life filled with legal issues and foreign adventures, including allegations that McAfee murdered his American neighbor in Belize, a claim that was never proven in criminal court.
John McAfee appears via videoconference during his extradition hearing at Audiencia Nacional court, in Madrid, Spain earlier this month. He has died behind bars at 75
A cell at the Brians 2 Prison in Barcelona is seen in a file photo. McAfee was found dead in his cell on Wednesday afternoon in a suspected suicide
John and wife Janice McAfee are seen in a spoof video from 2013, in which they poke fun at his wild-man image and love of firearms. He was reportedly an aficionado of bath salts
Final Tweet: In one of his final tweets, presumably dictated to his wife from behind bars, McAfee said ‘I have nothing. Yet, I regret nothing.’
Soon after his arrest last year, McAfee’s Twitter account posted a dark hint suggesting that if he died in an alleged suicide, a conspiracy would be to blame.
‘I am content in here. I have friends. The food is good. All is well. Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine,’ he tweeted referring to persistent theories that sex predator Jeffrey Epstein did not take his own life, as authorities ruled.
In one of his final tweets, presumably dictated to his wife from behind bars and posted on June 16, McAfee denied having any hidden assets, claiming the fortune he made in an alleged cryptocurrency scam had ‘evaporated.’
‘I have nothing. Yet, I regret nothing,’ the tweet stated.
McAfee had praised conditions at the prison where he was being held in Spain, though his Twitter account sometimes complained about the food.
‘Life in Spanish prisons is like the Hilton compared to the abject surrealism and dehumanization of American prisons. Here I am treated as a human being instead of a number,’ McAfee said in a letter written to his wife, according to El Diario.
Soon after his arrest last year, McAfee’s Twitter account posted a dark hint suggesting that if he died in an alleged suicide, a conspiracy would be to blame
McAfee had praised conditions at the prison where he was being held in Spain (above), though his Twitter account sometimes complained about the food
For years, McAfee had been living in self-imposed exile, fleeing what he claimed was a vast web of corruption and conspiracy in the U.S.
In January 2019, McAfee fled his heavily fortified Tennessee compound with wife Janice, 38, claiming a grand jury was preparing to indict him on tax-related charges and taking to the high seas to escape.
Touring the Caribbean on his ‘Freedom Boat’ also allowed McAfee to avoid a $25million judgement in a wrongful death lawsuit over the 2012 murder of his neighbor in Belize, Gregory Viant Faull.
McAfee was never criminally charged with the murder and he always strenuously denied it. He continued to trot the globe until his arrest in Spain last fall.
McAfee claimed to be trapped in Cuba by nefarious forces in June 2019, and that July he was briefly detained in the Dominican Republic after officials accused him of loading his yacht with high-caliber weapons.
McAfee is seen aboard his ‘Freedom Boat’ in the Caribbean in 2019, fleeing a pending indictment on tax-related charges in the U.S.
McAfee is seen with wife Janice. They freely admit that Janice was working as a prostitute in Miami Beach when McAfee hired her for a night, before rescuing her from a violent pimp and falling madly in love. They were married for eight years before his death
Last year, Tennessee prosecutors charged McAfee with evading taxes after failing to report income made from promoting cryptocurrencies while he did consultancy work, as well as income from speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary.
The charges referred to the three fiscal years from 2016 to 2018, according to the Spanish court’s ruling on Wednesday.
The entrepreneur was arrested last October at Barcelona’s international airport. A judge ordered at that time that McAfee should be held in jail while awaiting the outcome of a hearing on extradition.
McAfee’s wife Janice said in a statement on Sunday that he had been targeted by prosecutors ‘for speaking out against the corruption within their government agencies.’
‘These eight months John has spent in prison in Spain have been especially hard on his overall health both mentally and physically, as well as financially, but he is undeterred from continuing to speak truth to power,’ she added.
In a hearing held via videolink earlier this month, McAfee also argued that the charges against him were politically motivated and said he would spend the rest of his life in prison if he was returned to the U.S.
McAfee linked the charges filed by the Internal Revenue Service to his failed bid to run as a Libertarian Party candidate in the 2020 U.S. presidential election, a second such attempt.
McAfee is seen in Cuba in 2019. Shortly before his death, Spain approved his extradition to the US on tax charges, which he argued were politically motivated
‘In late 2018, I announced I would run again and I also announced I would target the IRS and its corruption and two months later the IRS filed charged against me,’ he told the Spanish High Court during the first hearing of his extradition trial.
‘I believe the charges are politically motivated.’
McAfee added that that given his age, almost 76, he would spend the rest of his life in jail if he were to be convicted in the United States.
‘I am hoping that the Spanish court will see the injustice of this,’ he said, adding ‘the United States wants to use me as an example.’
In Washington, the IRS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Spanish prosecutor, Carlos Bautista, dismissed the claim of political motivations, insisting the Libertarian Party rarely gains more than 1 percent of votes in U.S. elections.
‘He is a tax rebel, nothing else. A millionaire who doesn’t want to pay taxes,’ Bautista said. ‘He will benefit from all guarantees of due process.’
John McAfee’s brilliant rise as a computer programmer and his disturbing spiral into drug use, conspiracy theories, and allegations of murder
John David McAfee was born on Septermber 18, 1945 on a U.S. Army base in Goucestershire, United Kingdom, the son of an American serviceman father and a British mother.
When he was 15, his father, an abusive alcoholic, committed suicide with a firearm.
McAfee graduated from Roanoake College with a degree in mathematics in 1967, and went on to work for NASA, Xerox and Lockheed before founding McAfee Associates in 1987.
His antivirus software proved to be a stunning business success, making him millions. McAfee resigned from the company in 1994, and sold his remaining stake two years after McAfee Associates went public.
Computer analyst John McAfee holding stethoscope to IBM type computer in 1989, illustrating computer viruses which his software is able to eradicate
McAfee led an eccentric life after he sold his stake in the antivirus software company named after him in the early 1990s, with his net worth peaking at around $100 million before he lost much of it in the 2007 Great Recession.
His personality changed abruptly around 2010 while living in Belize, when he reportedly began producing and consuming large quantities of bath salts, a powerful psychoactive drug that was legal in that country.
McAfee, who said in 2018 that he had fathered at least 47 children, lived in Belize for several years. He fled after police sought him for questioning in the 2012 murder of a neighbor.
McAfee met his wife Janice in 2013, a day after McAfee was deported from Guatemala for illegally entering the country while fleeing Belize.
Janice was working as a prostitute in Miami Beach when McAfee hired her for a night, before rescuing her from a violent pimp and falling madly in love, the couple have openly revealed.
He then reinvented himself as a Bitcoin expert, debuting a cryptocurrency trading portal call ‘McAfee Magic’.
McAfee and Janice became inseparable over eight years of marriage, with Janice fleeing the U.S. with him in 2019 and serving as his presidential campaign’s director of media relations.
John McAfee updates his blog at an immigration detention center in Guatemala City, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. The anti-virus guru was arrested at a hotel after fleeing Belize
McAfee, left, sits in a taxi cab in the South Beach area of Miami Beach, Fla., on his way to dinner Wednesday after being deported from Guatemala in 2012
McAfee met his wife Janice in 2013, a day after McAfee was deported from Guatemala while fleeing Belize
The couple took to the seas aboard his ‘Freedom Boat’ and cruised the Caribbean as McAfee issued a series of bizarre pronouncement and threats to expose ‘corrupt’ US officials he claimed were unjustly pursuing him.
In one incident, McAfee revealed that one of his teleconference-enabled ‘body doubles’, Jay Pizzle, had disappeared while in route to deliver a keynote speech for him in Barcelona
‘No-one’s heard from him. I’m not a conspiricy [sic] theorist, but I don’t believe in co-incidence. I have no clue. But would the U.S. go that far to silence me?’ McAfee said.
‘We spoke with Jay the night before he was supposed to leave. All was fine and he was excited to go on the cruise,’ tweeted McAfee in an update
‘His flight was to leave the following morning. We know only that he did not show up for his flight and he was not seen at the airport,’ said McAfee.
John McAfee speaks during a Coinsbank Blockchain Cruise Asia conference event at Paradise Beach in Phuket, Thailand in 2018. He reinvented himself as a cryptocurrency guru
McAfee responded with wide-ranging threats to release information he said would expose corruption at the highest levels of the CIA, as well as other U.S. authorities.
‘If I’m arrested or disappear, 31+ terrabytes of incriminating data will be released to the press,’ McAfee said in one recent tweet.
McAfee also issued a video statement vowing to release a web page detailing corruption within the U.S. government.
‘There is corruption that goes far deeper, however, and that is the corruption of those who reach for more power, in order to be more corrupt,’ he said.
In July 2019, McAfee was released from detention in the Dominican Republic after he and five others were suspected of traveling on a yacht carrying high-caliber weapons, ammunition and military-style gear, officials on the Caribbean island said at the time.
John McAfee gestures during an interview with AFP on his yacht anchored at the Marina Hemingway in Havana in 2019
McAfee claimed in 2019 that his surrogate Jay Pizzle (seen left, and right wearing a McAfee mask) disappeared while traveling to a conference in Barcelona to speak on his behalf
McAfee and Janice went on from the Caribbean to Europe, where he fabricated a hoax arrest in August 2020, claiming he had been charged for not wearing a medical mask and using his wife’s thong instead.
McAfee was arrested for real at the Barcelona airport in early October 2020, when he was about to board a flight to Istanbul with a British passport.
U.S. federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment in October against McAfee over charges that he evaded taxes and wilfully failed to file returns.
That came shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission revealed it had brought civil charges against McAfee, alleging he made over $23.1 million in undisclosed income from false and misleading cryptocurrency recommendations.
McAfee fabricated a hoax arrest in August 2020 in Norway, claiming he had been charged for not wearing a medical mask and using his wife’s thong instead
The Spanish prosecutor said McAfee could be extradited, but only to face charges related to his tax returns of 2016, 2017 and 2018.
US authorities also accused McAfee of exploiting McAfee’s large Twitter following to artificially inflate prices of obscure cryptocurrencies through a so-called pump-and-dump scheme, and concealing payments McAfee received from startup businesses to promote initial coin offerings.
The Justice Department said McAfee and his accomplices reaped more than $13 million from the schemes. The charges were brought in Manhattan federal court.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed related civil charges concerning the alleged pump-and-dump scheme.
Developing story, more to follow.