John McAfee faces new federal charges over alleged cryptocurrency schemes

The former antivirus exec has found himself in more legal trouble.

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John McAfee, seen here in 2017, is once again in hot water with the US government. 

Anthony Kwan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

John McAfee has once again found himself in hot water with the US government, after getting indicted for tax evasion last October. The US government on Friday unsealed an indictment charging McAfee and Jimmy Gale Watson Jr., an "executive adviser" for his "so-called cryptocurrency team," 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." 

The indictment was brought by Audrey Strauss, US attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., assistant director-in-charge of the FBI's New York Field Office. In a press release announcing the indictment, they allege that McAfee and Watson ran "two schemes" that revolved around the "fraudulent promotion to investors of cryptocurrencies qualifying under federal law as commodities or securities."

Watson, the release states, was arrested Thursday night in Texas and will appear before a federal judge in the state on Friday. McAfee is being held in Spain as part of the Department of Justice's charges of tax evasion. 

Strauss alleges in the new indictment that McAfee, known as the creator of the antivirus computer software that bears his last name, and Watson used McAfee's Twitter account from December 2017 through October 2018 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." 

The statement continues, "McAfee, Watson, and other members of McAfee's cryptocurrency team allegedly raked in more than $13 million from investors they victimized with their fraudulent schemes," and warns, "Investors should be wary of social media endorsements of investment opportunities." 

Among the charges in the seven-count indictment are "two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of substantive wire fraud, each of which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison" as well as "one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 10 years in prison."

In addition to the new charges from the DOJ and FBI, the release states that Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading Commission have also filed civil charges against the two men.