New York (CNN Business)John David McAfee, the eccentric antivirus software pioneer, has been indicted on fraud and money laundering charges by the Department of Justice, which alleges he and a business partner participated in a scheme that earned more than $13 million by falsely promoting cryptocurrency to unwitting investors.
McAfee, 75, and a member of his “cryptocurrency team,” 40-year-old Jimmy Gale Watson, Jr., allegedly exploited Twitter and “enthusiasm among investors in the emergency cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and deception,” US Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement on the indictment, which was unsealed Friday in Manhattan federal court.
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said the allegations boil down to “an age-old pump-and-dump scheme.” The DOJ alleges McAfee, Watson and others would buy cryptocurrencies, hype them to McAfee’s Twitter followers, which numbered about 784,000 at the time, to boost prices and then sell for a profit — in addition to promoting cryptocurrency offerings without disclosing they were allegedly receiving payment to do so.
The two men are charged with multiple counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, as well as a single count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. According to the indictment, if convicted of all charges, each could face up to 100 years in prison and financial penalties.