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John McAfee, Software Pioneer, Found Dead In A Spanish Prison Cell

Anti-virus software founder John McAfee was found dead in a prison cell in Spain on Wednesday, according to McAfee's lawyer said.
Alan Diaz
Anti-virus software founder John McAfee was found dead in a prison cell in Spain on Wednesday, according to McAfee's lawyer said.

American software pioneer John McAfee, 75, was found dead on Wednesday in a prison cell in Barcelona, Spain, according to McAfee's lawyers.

Just hours earlier, a court in Spain had approved the extradition of McAfee to the U.S., where he was set to stand trial on federal tax-evasion charges.

Authorities are investigating the cause of death.

An eccentric and brash millionaire known widely for his eponymous antivirus software, McAfee sold his stake in the company in the mid-1990s and spent his life globe-trotting and stumbling frequently into legal trouble.

Eventually, he landed on an island off the coast of Belize, where he operated a palatial estate known to be the site of raging parties and illicit behavior. He fled the property after being named as a suspect in a murder there.

McAfee bragged about being a tax dodge in a 2019 tweet, just as federal investigators were homing in on him.

He was not able to run forever.

McAfee was arrested in October 2020 in Spain for failing to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018 in Tennessee and concealing assets, including a yacht.

In a separate investigation, the Securities and Exchange Commission sued McAfee for a "pump and dump scheme" in which he allegedly made $23 million in undisclosed compensation by pushing cryptocurrencies on his Twitter page.

"McAfee's recommendations were materially false and misleading," according to the SEC's suit, also from October 2020.

Federal authorities additionally filed a civil case against McAfee for the same actions.

Nishay Sanan, McAfee's lawyer, told NPR he intended to fight all the charges.

"This is again the U.S. government trying to erase John McAfee. And that's what it's always going to be," Sanan said. "This man was a fighter. And in the minds of everyone who knew him, he will always be a fighter."

There was even more to the legal cloud the hung over McAfee.

In 2012, he was arrested in Guatemala, where he was charged with entering the country illegally. He was seeking political asylum after he had been on a highly publicized flight from his home in Belize after the murder of his neighbor. Investigators said McAfee was "a person of interest" in the murder.

McAfee's Belize island home was known as a party house, with many women living there, in addition to several large dogs. His former neighbor, Gregory Faull, reportedly complained about the animals. One day, McAfee discovered that the dogs had been poisoned. Shortly after, Faull was found dead.

"John definitely did not have anything to do with that," McAfee's spokesman, Brian Fitzgerald, told NPR in 2012.

McAfee took pride in outwitting authorities. He once boasted about eluding police by dressing as a German tourist in a Speedo and another time as an angry homeless man.

He once insisted, in a 2015 interview with WBBJ, a television station in Tennessee, that he be interviewed with a loaded gun in each hand.

"Very little gives me a feeling of being safe and more secure other than being armed in my bedroom with the door locked," McAfee told the station.

Despite it all, he tried twice to run for president.

In 2015, McAfee announced a White House bid with libertarian values and an affiliation he created with a nod to his Silicon Valley past: the Cyber Party.

"Personal freedom and personal privacy are paramount," McAfee told Larry King about his presidential run. "I've been incarcerated a number of times. I am a civil disobedience person."

CeCe Craig, McAfee's former house manager in Woodland Park, Colo., lived on McAfee's property for years in the early 2000s and said she knew a cheerier side of the software legend.

"I got the best of John McAfee. He was really into his yoga retreats. He loved playing the grand piano. We hiked around a lot on his land," she told NPR. "I learned a lot from him. When I lived with him, he was adamantly against drugs and alcohol to focus on his yoga," she said.

"He was a nerd. That's how I always saw him."

In one ofhis last interviews, on the Delphi Podcast, just before he was arrested in Spain, McAfee wore a blazer and sunglasses and appeared unhinged, screaming and cursing at the host about Bitcoin. He also expressed his disdain for income taxes. When asked if that meant he does not want to return to the U.S., he had a quick reply.

"No, I do want to live in a America. I just can't," he said. "They won't let me back in, what can I tell you?"

NPR's Carrie Kahn contributed reporting.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Bobby Allyn is a business reporter at NPR based in San Francisco. He covers technology and how Silicon Valley's largest companies are transforming how we live and reshaping society.
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