John McAfee, the antivirus software pioneer whose former company still bears his name, has been charged with fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges stemming from two cryptocurrency schemes, the US Department of Justice said on Friday.
Authorities accused McAfee and his bodyguard, Jimmy Gale Watson Jr., of exploiting McAfee’s large Twitter following to artificially inflate “altcoin” prices through a so-called pump-and-dump scheme, and of hiding. payments McAfee received from startups to promote coin offerings.
The Justice Department said McAfee and his accomplices obtained more than $ 13 million from the schemes. The charges were brought to federal court in Manhattan.
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed civil charges related to the alleged pump and discharge scheme.
Manhattan US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement: “As alleged, McAfee and Watson exploited a widely used social media platform and excitement among investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and tricks”.
McAfee’s attorneys could not be immediately identified. McAfee is being held in Spain following his arrest there on tax evasion charges announced in October, the Justice Department said.
Watson was arrested Thursday night in Texas, the department added.
Watson’s attorney, Arnold Spencer, said in a statement: “Jimmy Watson is a decorated veteran and former Navy Seal. He fought for the rights and freedoms of other people, and has the right and awaits his day in court to exercise some of those same rights. “
The two also face civil charges from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which in October accused McAfee of hiding more than $ 23.1 million it earned by pushing seven cryptocurrency offerings on Twitter.
In cryptocurrency cases, authorities said McAfee promoted assets such as Verge, Reddcoin, and Dogecoin as part of a “Currency of the Day” or “Currency of the Week” tweet from approximately December 2017 to February 2018.
Authorities said McAfee considered himself a cybersecurity and cryptocurrency expert through his tweets, speeches, and his role as CEO of a publicly traded cryptocurrency company. They also accused him of telling his followers that he had no interest in the coins, even while promoting how “they will change the world.”