Federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment on Monday charging antivirus software creator John McAfee with tax evasion and willful failure to file tax returns.
The Justice Department said in a statement that McAfee failed to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018 despite earning millions from promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, speaking engagements and selling the rights to his life story for a documentary.
The 10-count Indictment accuses McAfee of failing to pay taxes by having his earnings deposited into bank and cryptocurrency exchange accounts under the names of others while attempting to evade the Internal Revenue Service by concealing property, vehicles and a yacht in the same manner.
The amount the antivirus software magnate owes was not disclosed, but if convicted he faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison for each count of evasion and one year for each count of willful failure to file a tax return.
Prosecutors said the June 15 indictment was unsealed following McAfee’s arrest in Spain, where he is pending extradition.
The unsealing of the indictment came after the Securities and Exchange Commission announced Monday that it had filed civil charges against McAfee for accepting more than $23.2 million in exchange for promoting seven cryptocurrency investments to his 1 million Twitter followers without disclosing he was paid to do so.
The SEC said McAfee made “false and misleading statements” to investors, such as claiming he had personally invested in initial coin offerings he was advertising.
“McAfee falsely claimed to be an investor and/or a technical advisor when he recommended several ICOs, creating the impression that he had vetted these companies, that they were benefiting from his technical expertise and that he was willing to invest his own money in the ventures,” the SEC complaint said. “In reality, McAfee’s tweets were paid promotions disguised as impartial investment advice.”
Jimmy Watson, Jr., McAfee’s bodyguard, was also charged by the SEC for negotiating the promotion deals with the initial coin offerings, aiding McAfee to cash out the digital payments received for the promotions and for having his spouse tweet interest in one of the cryptocurrencies.
“McAfee, assisted by Watson, allegedly leveraged his fame to deceptively tout numerous digital asset securities to his followers without informing investors of his role as a paid promoter,” said Kristina Littman, cyber unit chief at the SEC.
The pair face charges of violating anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities law while McAfee has been individually charged with violating anti-touting provisions and Watson has been charged with aiding and abetting McAfee’s violations.
“The complaint seeks permanent injunctive relief, conduct-based injunctions, return of allegedly ill-gotten gains and civil penalties,” the SEC said, adding that it also asks for McAfee to be barred from serving as a public company officer or director.
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