John McAfee, software pioneer turned fugitive: I faked being crazy and ill to escape to U.S.
Update: The latest development in the bizarre story of John McAfee, supporting player in our recent feature "The Hot Yoga War"? The software pioneer, who somehow managed to flee cops in Belize who wanted to question him about a murder even as he launched a publicity blitz, has traveled from Guatemala, where he'd been discovered hiding in plain sight, to Miami amid claims that he faked both an illness and lunacy to expedite his U.S. return.
As we've reported, McAfee had been living in exile in Belize, where his hobbies included coupling with plenty of young women and exploring the erotic qualities of bath salts. Then, his neighbor, a fellow American expatriate with whom he'd argued about his dogs, was killed. But because McAfee believes the local police are out to get him (his gun-filled compound had been raided earlier this year, although no criminal charges followed), he hit the road, all the while blogging and doing interviews with the likes of comedian Joe Rogan about his innocence.
McAfee demonstrating how he used disguises to avoid being recognized in Guatemala.
In the end, however, this PR mania took its toll: A hacker managed to track his whereabouts to Guatemala by deciphering coordinates in an iPhone photo of McAfee with a reporter from Vice.com. He was taken into custody there -- but a short time later, he collapsed with apparent heart trouble, prompting a crazy rush through the streets, with the media trailing after the ambulance in which he lay, apparently unresponsive.
Operative word in that last sentence? "Apparently." According to ABC News, McAfee now admits to faking the illness and playing the "crazy card," all to escape from Central America and return to the States. And he believes doing so publicly is the reason he made it to Miami in one piece.
"What's a better story, millionaire mad man on the run," he told reporters. "You [the media] saved my ass. Because you paid attention to the story. As long as you are reporting, it is hard to whack somebody that the world is watching."
Look below to see an ABC News report about the Guatemala collapse, followed by our previous coverage and a complete Q&A with McAfee from earlier this year.
Continue for earlier reports about the John McAfee story. Update, 10:45 a.m. December 6: We've been following the strange saga of John McAfee, software pioneer and supporting player in our recent feature "The Hot Yoga War," who went underground (sort of) after police in Belize said they wanted to question him in relation to the murder of a neighbor. Now, McAfee has been found in neighboring Guatemala, thanks to a smart-phone gaffe by reporters taking part in his recent publicity orgy. Details (and our original coverage) below.
As we've reported, McAfee has stressed from the beginning that he didn't kill fellow American expatriate Gregory Faull, 52, despite a past dispute between them over dogs kept by the antivirus software namesake -- and which he says were recently poisoned. He also claims that the government of Guatemala is after him, presumably over his proclivity for keeping oodles of guns on his compound (they're all reportedly legal) and the sexually explosive effects of bath salts.
McAfee meets the press.
After McAfee split, however, his profile actually rose thanks to his creation of a blog about his life as a fugitive and interviews with inquisitors as disparate as Alex Jones and Joe Rogan; hear clips below. But everything came apart thanks to his PR dalliance with Vice.com.
Published along with a piece sporting the sassy title "We are With John McAfee Right Now, Suckers" was an iPhone photo of Big John with Vice reporter Rocco Castoro.
What was wrong with that? As pointed out by CBS, a hacker used the GPS coordinates embedded in the image to determine that McAfee was in Guatemala, just over the border from Belize.
Shortly thereafter, McAfee was arrested -- for entering Guatemala illegally, not Faull's death. But being taken into custody hasn't stopped him from blogging. Here's his most recent post, headlined, "Can't Sleep."
I've been reading posts (There's no TV here). One poster asked, in a kindly way, whether I felt like killing myself. My reply:
"I enjoy living, and suicide is absurdly redundant. The world, from the very begining, hurls viruses, accidents, hungry animals, defective DNA -- and uncountable more -- in an attempt to kill us. It always succeeds. Suicide is simply aiding and abetting."
My spirits are brighter. I caught an hour or two of sleep. Sam is fine, by the way. She is under my attorney's charge, - and some Israeli bodyguards. Serious looking fellows with plenty of body mass. Made me worry a bit less about Sam. She is worried about me, of course, but I have a more optimistic view of things.
I am using the computer of one of the wardens, or whatever title is used here. He is a sweet man and a gentleman. The world is heavilly populated with gentle people. He makes me coffee and tells tender stories about his life. He is a good companion. I believe I could spend weeks in the desert with him as a sole companion without once becoming irritated. His name is Gino Ennati.
Everyone here is nice. And sympathetic. So far, my experience on the inside of this establishment has worn away a bit of my natural cynicism and added a measure of hope for humanity. Only Ennati speaks any English, and then not enough to catch much humor, so my joking has fallen largely on bewildered but kindly faces. I asked a while ago whether Ennati owned a computer (I was using his at the time and he was watching). He hesitated with a confused look for a moment and I continued by saying how lucky I was to be able to bring my own computer in here with me. I proudly showed him his MacBook Pro and explained that I could help get him one from the States just like mine for a reasonable amount of money. I went on to explain how Sam had given me this one as a birthday present and because of that I would not give it up under any circumstances. "I would die defending this computer" I said. "Would you like me to show you how to use it?" I asked. His confused face turned into a kindly, patronizing smile, mixed, I think, with a little pity. He clearly thought I was crazy. Before he could answer I, quickly tirned the compuer over, pretended to scrutinize the back and said "Oh no, this isn't the one Samantha gave me. This one must be yours." I smiled and he finally laughed.
Look below to see the CBS report about McAfee, followed by our previous coverage, including a Q&A from this past summer.
Continue for our previous coverage. Update: We've been following bizarre developments involving antivirus pioneer John McAfee, a co-star in the July feature "The Hot Yoga War," who's wanted for questioning about a murder in Belize that he says he didn't commit; read previous coverage below. At this writing, McAfee remains on the run from authorities, but in the most public way possible. He's actively blogging about life as a fugitive and appeared yesterday on two major interview programs, opposite comic Joe Rogan and Alex Jones of Infowars fame. Continue to hear both and get additional details.
McAfee has been living in Belize for some time and believes the government there is out to get him, due in part to an April raid on his compound. There, officers discovered plenty of guns (all of them legal), plus a lab that he apparently used in an attempt to purify a drug (also allowed in Belize, but against the law in the U.S.) that's said to enhance "hypersexuality."
Then, a few weeks back, McAfee's neighbor, fellow American expat Gregory Faull, 52, was slain, and because the two of them were in dispute (Faull had apparently complained about the dozen dogs McAfee kept on his property), suspicion fell upon the flamboyant 67 year old. But rather than sit down with the cops and proclaim his innocence, McAfee split amid claims that "black-suited thugs" had been sighted shortly before he found that his dogs had been poisoned.
In communication with one reporter, he wrote, "Under no circumstances am I going to willingly talk to the police in this country. You can say I'm paranoid about it, but they will kill me -- there is no question. They've been trying to get me for months."
Shortly thereafter, McAfee launched "The Hinterland," described as "the official blog of John McAfee." In addition to using the site to advertise a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Faull's killer, McAfee has pumped out content aplenty, including "The Government's Next Step," shared just after 2 a.m. this morning in whatever time zone he's presently residing. The post hints that the Belize government is close to dropping its pursuit of him for Faull's murder, but is looking for other ways to put him behind bars. Here's an excerpt:
I still have friends within the Government here, not many, but enough. I have been hearing, through the DPP's office (the DPP is like the Attorney General in the States), that the Government is giving up on attempting to stick the murder charge on me, and is now looking for ways in which I violated the draconic gun laws here in Belize. In actuality, this has been their plan for months. A security consultant that I hired some months ago arranged the licensing and acquisition of the three shotguns that were at my property, and from that moment, the government initiated a plan to trap me. It's all on tape.
In addition, McAfee found time in his busy schedule as a fugitive to have extended, and highly energetic, chats with Rogan and Jones. Talk about hiding in plain sight.
Listen to the conversations here. They're followed by our previous coverage of this strange tale, including a lengthy Q&A with McAfee.
Video streaming by Ustream
Update, 5:59 a.m. November 14: Yesterday, we noted that antivirus pioneer John McAfee, a supporting player in Rebecca Moss's July feature "The Hot Yoga War," was wanted for questioning regarding a murder in his adopted home of Belize, but his whereabouts were unknown. That remains the case at this writing. However, he's surfaced long enough to proclaim his innocence and declare that he's in fear for his life after all of his beloved dogs were poisoned.
McAfee's confidant is Wired magazine's Joshua Davis, who has spent months investigating the software innovator's assorted claims about the Belize government. Note that McAfee's compound was raided in April, with police discovering an arsenal of weapons (all of them legal) and a lab that he apparently used in an attempt to purify a drug (also allowed in Belize, but against the law in the U.S.) that's said to enhance "hypersexuality;" more on that below. He was not charged with a crime following this incident, but he remains wary of the cops, as well as gangsters who he's said to believe have marked him for death.
In communications with Davis, McAfee stresses that he had nothing to do with the murder of his neighbor, fellow American expatriate Gregory Faull, 52, despite a past dispute between them. According to Davis, Faull and others have complained about the half-dozen dogs he's kept on his property -- and on Friday, McAfee claims all of them were poisoned.
"The coast guard dropped off a contingent of black-suited thugs at 10:30 tonight at the dock next door," he wrote via e-mail to Davis. "They dispersed on the beach. A half hour later all of my dogs had been poisoned. Mellow, Lucky, Dipsy, and Guerrero have already died."
Over this past weekend, McAfee told Davis he didn't think Faull was responsible for the dogs' deaths. But with Faull now slain, he's not ready to sit down with cops to tell his side of the story.
"Under no circumstances am I going to willingly talk to the police in this country," he's quoted as saying yesterday. "You can say I'm paranoid about it, but they will kill me -- there is no question. They've been trying to get me for months. They want to silence me. I am not well liked by the prime minister. I am just a thorn in everybody's side."
Continue to read our previous coverage, including a lengthy Q&A with McAfee from July. : Original post, 6:29 a.m. November 13: In Rebecca Moss's July feature "The Hot Yoga War," antivirus pioneer John McAfee was a bit player, albeit one colorful enough to earn his own Q&A; we've included the interview here. But McAfee's hucksterism about what he's dubbed "observational yoga" contrasts sharply with his latest reason for making news: He's being sought for questioning about a murder in Belize. Bizarre details below.
Moss's feature focuses on a legal conflict between two yoga entrepreneurs: Greg Gumucio and Bikram Choudhury, the former's onetime mentor. As for McAfee, he enters the story when Gumucio attends a yoga retreat in Colorado put on by the namesake of McAfee AntiVirus systems, which was reportedly sold to Intel in 2010. Here's an excerpt from the article, which begins with Gumucio's meeting with McAfee at his 280-acre Tuscan-style estate in Woodland Park:
When McAfee opened the door, he offered Gumucio a place to stay before even asking his identity. The two immediately clicked, and they talked for ten hours, wandering the estate and discussing McAfee's work. For the past fifteen years, he had been studying the kripalu method of yoga, a practice that focuses on self-discovery and spiritual realization; the books sitting beneath Gumucio's desk were full of McAfee's meditations on how yoga can lead to a better, enlightened life. But it was not yoga that had made McAfee wealthy. Rather, it was the software company he'd founded that bears his name. McAfee anti-virus software was the first-ever virus scan created to protect computers, and by 1994, he was worth nearly half a billion dollars because of it. He'd sold the company two years before meeting Gumucio, though, and had focused his energy on yoga. McAfee considered himself the founder of "relational yoga" and ran yoga retreats at his Colorado estate. Along with his books, he had produced DVDs by the same title, which taught his students how to combat the "human condition" of fear and uncertainty through self-understanding, which he believed to be the overlooked core of yoga.
McAfee invited Gumucio to teach at a retreat, where he spent several days in nature practicing yoga in complete silence. By the time it was over, Gumucio decided he wanted to teach multiple forms of yoga, incorporating McAfee's kriya method. "He taught many things," Gumucio says today. "Really, he is a genius, and brilliant."
Like Bikram, McAfee was not a surprising mentor to catch Gumucio's attention: He was full of the ingenuity that launches empires and fortunes, with eccentricity to match. But as Gumucio worked with him, "that's when things started to go south" with Bikram, Gumucio recalls.
(Ultimately, McAfee himself went south -- literally. He soon was seeking self-enlightenment not just through yoga, but through extreme sports, including racing ATVs and motorcycles and jet-skiing. In 2002, McAfee began studying aero-trekking, a form of low-flying aviation along the dessert; he and a gang of "Sky Gypsies" collected vintage aviation equipment and spent their days piloting through low altitudes. But in 2010, the New York Times reported that McAfee was selling all five of his estates in this country -- he, like many others, had apparently been hit hard by the recession -- at an estimated $96 million loss. McAfee moved on to Belize, where, with the help of a thirty-year-old research assistant, he began studying indigenous herbs for a new form of antibiotics, not to mention a female aphrodisiac: Think Viagra for women. "You find self-awareness by breaking boundaries, breaking taboos," McAfee told Fast Company.)
McAfee was in Belize when Moss interviewed him a few months back. During the conversation, he described "observational yoga" like so:
You can pay $200 a month to sit in an easy chair and watch people do yoga up on a stage. There is a scientific basis for this, that through osmosis, as you watch others be active, the observation of something impacts yourself. If you watch someone move in a certain way, you start to mimic that later in the day. A good example is if you watch a scary movie, you become scared. You are not being attacked, but somehow you feel the fear.
A strange rap -- but not nearly as odd as the behavior documented in "Secrets, Schemes, and Lots of Guns: Inside John McAfee's Heart of Darkness" by Jeff Wise, published last week by Gizmodo. In the article, Wise, an acquaintance of McAfee's for a number of years, writes about an April raid on the entrepreneur's compound during which he was briefly taken into custody along with a seventeen-year-old Belize girl. Inside, according to Wise, "the cops found $20,000 in cash, a lab stocked with chemistry equipment, and a small armory's worth of firearms: seven pump-action shotguns, one single-action shotgun, two 9-mm. pistols, 270 shotgun cartridges, 30 9-mm. pistol rounds, and twenty .38 rounds" -- all of it legal.
Why was such an arsenal necessary? McAfee told Wise about numerous plots on his life from local gangsters -- presumably the reason he took to walking around his sprawling grounds wearing a pistol in his holster.
Did he use it? No confirmation of that yet, but in a new article, "Exclusive: John McAfee Wanted for Murder," Wise maintains that McAfee appears to have fled his exotic home as a result of a homicide accusation. Here's the text of a police report shared by Wise:
On Sunday the 11th November, 2012 at 8:00am acting upon information received, San Pedro Police visited 5 ¾ miles North of San Pedro Town where they saw 52 year old U.S National Mr. GREGORY VIANT FAULL, of the said address, lying face up in a pool of blood with an apparent gunshot wound on the upper rear part of his head apparently dead. Initial investigation revealed that on the said date at 7:20am LUARA TUN, 39 years, Belizean Housekeeper of Boca Del Rio Area, San Pedro Town went to the house of Mr. Faull to do her daily chores when she saw him laying inside of the hall motionless, Faull was last seen alive around 10:00 pm on 10.11.12 and he lived alone. No signs of forced entry was seen, A (1) laptop computer brand and serial number unknown and (1) I-Phone was discovered missing. The body was found in the hall of the upper flat of the house. A single luger brand 9 mm expended shells was found at the first stairs leading up to the upper flat of the building. The body of Faull was taken to KHMH Morgue where it awaits a Post Mortem Examination. Police have not established a motive so far but are following several leads.
After noting the erratic behavior documented in his first article, Wise shares additional revelations related to McAfee's alleged quest to "purify psychoactive drugs from compounds commercially available over the Internet." Wise quotes an online post attributed to McAfee that reads: "I'm a huge fan of MDPV. I think it's the finest drug ever conceived, not just for the indescribable hypersexuality, but also for the smooth euphoria and mild comedown."
MDPV, by the way, is part of a drug class known as cathinones and is derived from the East African plant known as khat. It's illegal in the U.S. but legal in Belize, Wise points out.
At this writing, McAfee remains at large. However, Reuters reports that no arrest warrant has been issued for him thus far. Marco Vidal, head of the Belize police Gang Suppression Unit, tells the news agency that he is "a person of interest at this time.... It goes a bit beyond that, not just being a neighbor."
Miguel Segura, the assistant commissioner of police says that McAfee is not a suspect at this time, but he adds, "Our job ... is to get all the evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Mr A is the one that killed Mr B."
Continue to read our July Q&A with John McAfee. "John McAfee: Anti-virus king turned relational yoga inventor talks latest endeavor (or prank?)" by Rebecca Moss. Published July 24, 2012.
Westword: How did you get involved with yoga?
John McAfee: On my first trip to India in my early twenties, I traveled to Delhi and other places on the Ganges. I was one of the first people to learn transcendental meditation with Maharichi, the founder of the transcendental meditation movement. The first course was in Calcutta, and then he moved to the States and I sort followed him around for a while -- to Rochester, New York, then St. Louis and Los Angeles. At that time yoga was a large part of the movement, and so I have just been involved forever.
WW: What was it like to follow Maharichi?
JM: They were very hectic [days]. The man was a bundle of energy, getting up at 5 a.m. and doing yoga, breath-work, meditation. It was non-stop work, seven days a week.
WW: Is it still part of your life?
JM: Well, I am still sort of doing it, but Maharichi died, I think three years ago.
WW: You have taught, and written several books about, a self-coined form of yoga called "relational yoga." How did you devise relational yoga?
JM: I think all of life is a relationship. It's how we relate to life, to people, and to ideas and to who we are. No human exists in isolation. So when yoga is viewed in relationship to the entire world, it makes perfect sense.
Anything that you do consistently is integrated into anything else that you do. If you are a long-distance runner, you probably don't have a desk job because it doesn't fit your body style. [In the same way], everything that I do is integrated into everything that I've learned.
WW: When did you begin writing?
JM: As a teenager, I guess, with diaries. I sort of have written non-stop [since then]. Every day I write something, so I guess forty years ago.
WW: What makes relational yoga different from other forms of yoga?
JM: I think what's important is not the type of yoga; it's leaving the home and going out and doing something.
That's how I came up with observational yoga. It sounds like a ridiculous concept, but it gets you out of the house; it is simply doing something with your life rather than sitting around watching television.
WW: What is observational yoga?
JM: You can pay $200 a month to sit in an easy chair and watch people do yoga up on a stage. There is a scientific basis for this, that through osmosis, as you watch others be active, the observation of something impacts yourself. If you watch someone move in a certain way, you start to mimic that later in the day. A good example is if you watch a scary movie, you become scared. You are not being attacked, but somehow you feel the fear. It's very popular [in Belize].
It would be very difficult to sell this concept in America. I would be shut down on all the claims that it improved health by the government. But here I can make any kind of outrageous claim that I choose and the government can see fit to say that it is okay.
In all sincerity, would you rather go out and see the work or do the work? Watching work is a very popular concept. Have you ever been in a city and there is construction going on? They used to put round holes in the walls that divide the construction from the street, because people used to like to walk by and watch people working. It was a popular pastime.
WW: Is this your primary occupation right now?
JM: In Belize this is a minor hobby more than anything else, but it is quite popular. I am planning to franchise it.
WW: What do the actual yoga practitioners do?
JM: It's mostly hatha yoga in static poses -- like Iyengar yoga. People find it more interesting to watch. We are trying to do the same thing with weight training, where you sit in an easy chair, they serve coffee or juice, and you watch people lift weights. There is a scientific basis that it will affect your actions throughout the day -- that you may lift a chair later rather than just scooting it across the floor -- and there will be an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in body fat.
We have discovered that activities with large-scale movements (involving the whole body, for example) lend themselves more readily to observational techniques. Small-scale movements, such as typing, provide limited results. This is why we had no success in teaching people to play the piano by having them watch concert pianists at work.
WW: Who do you picture as your target audience?
JM: Anyone who would like to watch yoga to improve flexibility, increase muscle mass and decrease fat. Actually, it's the younger people who take it; the older people tend to think it's hogwash. About 80 percent of our clients are between 18 and 25.
WW: How many clients do you have?
JM: Eight hundred as of last week. We are opening studios across the mainland as we speak.
WW: What does an observational yoga studio look like?
JM: The largest is a converted warehouse where we have an elevated stage, soft lighting and easy chairs so you can lay back and put your feet up, and we have four servers who serve juice, water and coffee. No food -- although we are thinking of adding food.
WW: How long do people come for?
JM: An hour and a half.
WW: What is the most popular time of day?
JM: At the end of the day, undoubtedly. We stopped doing classes in the mid-morning because no one came. Our earliest starts at 5:30 in the morning and our last class is at 8 at night.
WW: What other ventures are you involved in?
JM: I am an old man, and I am happy just to dabble in little things here and there. I have a water taxi service that carries people up and down the coast. It runs 24 times each day. I also have a sports pilot business, and a few coffee shops -- odds and ends.
WW: Do you think you will spend the rest of your life in Belize?
JM: I believe I will. I think most of my energy is going into the observational yoga and the observational weight training.
WW: Tell me about your days in Belize.
JM: I don't have an average day; every day varies. I live in different places around the country. If I am in Orange Walk, it is an overgrown rainforest and a totally different environment from San Pedro, which is on the ocean. I try not to become a habit unto myself, so I vary my location, I vary my activity.
WW: What do you think about the idea of yoga and intellectual property?
JM: I don't believe in intellectual property. Number one, when I started my anti-virus software, I put on the package: "Please steal this software." What is intellectual property? It came from combining all the ideas that are in your head; it came from other people. I don't think we own any ideas.
But I don't insist on my opinion. Here in Belize, for example, there is no intellectual-property law because the government doesn't believe in it. If, in fact, Belize changes that, that's fine with me. I can live under any system.
WW: You knew Greg Gumucio when you were living in Colorado. What was your relationship like?
JM: Greg was one of my students when I began the relational yoga studio yoga in Woodland Park, and I believe he was also a student of Bikram at that time. He was a good student, I remember. I wouldn't say it was a particularly close relationship. He came up to the lodge quite often; he came to the breath-work classes and the hatha yoga, but I had a lot of students at the time and I wasn't close with any of them.
WW: What do you think about the controversy between Bikram and Greg Gumucio?
JM: I think the problem with modern society is that we are glued to the television set. We are glued to the easy chair at home, and we are stuck in the habitual lifestyle -- commuting to and from work each day and then watching TV when we get home, and then we have two days off on the weekend and don't know what to do, so we watch TV again. Anything that gets people out of the house, in which the idea of something new is available, is a good thing.
I think Bikram is a good thing because it expands the yoga base rather than taking away from other forms of yoga. If it gets people out of the house, it's a good thing.
[But] Bikram has no chance of prevailing [in the lawsuit]. Every one of his yoga poses were taken directly from Iyengar's hatha yoga books -- written well over fifty years ago.
WW: What about your own pending lawsuit in the U.S.?
JM: I have had over 200 lawsuits since I started McAfee antivirus. Anyone who has money gets sued. Currently I have seven; I have never had less than five. It's a type of madness that is unique to America. For example, I have a $10 million lawsuit from a person who tripped over a log on my property in New Mexico. It just settled for $1,000, but it was ongoing for several years and cost me a lot of money. If you tried to do that in Belize, you would probably be beaten by your neighbors, it's just so ridiculous. In America, everything goes as far as the legal system, but I'm not complaining. I've learned to live with it.
WW: What happened with your project to develop new antibiotics?
JM: Absolutely nothing. I am simply too old to go down that path. The chief researcher quit and I had difficulty getting a new one to relocate here, and I didn't want to move. I gave up.
WW: Was that difficult?
JM: Lord, no. I have abandoned far more than I have succeeded at in life. It is not hard for me to leave anything.
WW: And yoga? Yoga is simply part of my life. It is something I cannot abandon. It is integrated in my being.
JM: If you come to Belize, I will give you a free pass and an easy chair to improve your peace of mind and your lean body mass.
Read about the legal battle between Greg Gumucio and Bikram Choudhury in "The Hot Yoga War."
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