Eccentric antivirus-software mogul John McAfee ran an illegal “pump and dump” cryptocurrency scheme that raked in millions of dollars for him and his staffers, Manhattan federal prosecutors said Friday.
In an indictment unsealed in federal court, prosecutors charged McAfee and Jimmy Watson, his cryptocurrency “executive adviser,” with running two schemes to bilk crypto investors out of about $13 million.
In the first illicit plot, McAfee and his team bought up large quantities of “altcoin” — while knowing he planned to publicize the cryptocurrency using his Twitter account that has an enormous and loyal following, prosecutors charged.
McAfee, the founder of McAfee antivirus software, then sold off the altcoins after his tweets artificially increased the value of the cryptocoins, earning about $2 million from the “pump and dump” scheme, according to the indictment.
In a second ruse, McAfee and his team took money from start-up cryptocurrency issuers to tout events called “initial coin offerings,” prosecutors charged.
The illicit group failed to disclose they were being paid to publicize the events, which is illegal, according to the indictment. That scheme allegedly earned them another $11 million.
McAfee and Watson were hit with a seven-count indictment on conspiracy and money-laundering charges.
McAfee is currently detained in Spain, where he was arrested by US authorities last year for tax evasion.
In August, he infamously copped to lying about his viral claim that he was busted in Norway for wearing a thong as a face mask, saying it was just a prank.