Tech entrepreneur John McAfee has been indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice on fraud and money laundering charges tied to McAfee’s touting of various cryptocurrency projects without disclosing he was paid to do so.
McAfee, who is currently detained in Spain on a separate tax charge by the DOJ, was indicted alongside Jimmy Watson Jr., an executive adviser to McAfee, according to a press release Friday. They allegedly made more than $13 million from investors. An attached complaint said McAfee is being charged with several counts of wire fraud, securities fraud and money laundering.
According to court documents, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) is bringing separate charges and filing for injunctive relief and civil penalties.
“The defendants allegedly used McAfee’s Twitter account to publish messages to hundreds of thousands of his Twitter followers touting various cryptocurrencies through false and misleading statements to conceal their true, self-interested motives,” said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in a statement.
Assistant FBI Director William Sweeney said a pump-and-dump scheme earned the two $2 million. They also promoted different initial coin offerings (ICOs) on social media without disclosing their compensation.
The defendants allegedly tried to hide the proceeds from the ICO touting schemes by having the wife of a co-conspirator open an account at a crypto exchange to liquidate the proceeds from the ICOs they promoted, and transfer the U.S. dollars to another bank, a sealed indictment published Friday read.
“McAfee and other McAfee Team members, including Watson, collectively earned more than $11 million in undisclosed compensation that they took steps to affirmatively hide from ICO investors,” the document said.
The indictment stems from an investigation that began in 2018, according to the filing, though the conduct under investigation allegedly began as far back as December 2017.
UPDATE (March 5, 2021, 17:30 UTC): Updated with additional context from court filings.