Antivirus software creator charged with cheating investors

FILE In this Dec. 12, 2012 file photo, anti-virus software founder John McAfee answers questions to reporters as he walks on Ocean Drive, in the South Beach area of Miami Beach, Fla. McAfee was indicted on fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges alleging that he and cohorts made over $13 million by fooling investors zealous over the emerging cryptocurrency market, authorities said Friday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz, File) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

NEW YORK – Antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee was indicted on fraud and money laundering conspiracy charges alleging that he and cohorts made over $13 million by fooling investors zealous over the emerging cryptocurrency market, authorities said Friday.

McAfee, 75, was charged in a newly unsealed indictment in Manhattan federal court along with Jimmy Gale Watson Jr., who served as an executive adviser on what prosecutors described as McAfee's “so-called cryptocurrency team.”

Prosecutors said Watson, 40, was arrested Thursday night in Texas and would make an initial appearance Friday before a federal magistrate judge in Dallas. McAfee, authorities said, is detained in Spain on separate criminal charges filed by the U.S. Justice Department's tax division.

Attorney Arnold Spencer, representing Watson, said his client is a decorated former Navy Seal.

“He fought for other people's rights and liberties, and he is entitled to and looks forward to his day in court to exercise some of those very rights,” he said in an email.

“Criminal indictments are blunt instruments, not precise scalpels," Spencer added. "This is not the right place to debate whether cutting edge technologies like cryptocurrencies are securities, commodities, or something else.”

It was not immediately clear who might represent McAfee. There was still no lawyer listed for him in the Memphis, Tennessee, federal court where tax charges were lodged against him in October.

“McAfee and Watson exploited a widely used social media platform and enthusiasm among investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and deception,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement describing crimes in 2017 and 2018.