Crime

John McAfee's Bizarre Death and Colorado Connections

John McAfee, as seen in an odd 2013 video in which he offers instructions on how to uninstall the anti-virus system he pioneered.
John McAfee, as seen in an odd 2013 video in which he offers instructions on how to uninstall the anti-virus system he pioneered. YouTube
The crazy life of anti-virus pioneer John McAfee is over.

On June 23, the 75-year-old McAfee was found dead in his cell at a prison in Spain, where he's been incarcerated since last October. Spanish authorities arrested him on assorted United States charges, including violation of anti-fraud provisions and tax evasion; in 2019, he tweeted that he hadn't filed tax returns in eight years because "taxation is illegal." A cause of death hasn't been officially announced, but multiple reports hint at suicide following a ruling by a Spanish court that would have allowed his extradition to the U.S.

McAfee, a former Colorado resident, was the focus of a 2012 cover story, "The Hot Yoga War," and in a separate Q&A, he talked about his life in Belize — where, it turns out, he was wanted for questioning in a murder he swore he didn't commit.

In the years that followed, McAfee was many things, including a fugitive from justice and a failed presidential candidate.

"The Hot Yoga War" highlighted McAfee's hucksterism for what he dubbed "relational yoga." After selling his namesake McAfee AntiVirus systems to Intel in 2010, he ran yoga retreats at his Colorado estate in addition to penning books and producing DVDs in which he taught his students how to combat the "human condition" of fear and uncertainty through self-understanding that he considered to be the overlooked core of yoga.

McAfee also owned a compound in Belize, which was raided in April 2012; police discovered an arsenal of weapons (all of them legal) and a lab that he apparently used in an attempt to purify MDPV, a drug said to enhance sexual pleasure that's allowed in Belize but against the law in the U.S.

"I'm a huge fan of MDPV," he said. "I think it's the finest drug ever conceived, not just for the indescribable hypersexuality, but also for the smooth euphoria and mild comedown."

McAfee was not charged with a crime following this incident, but he remained wary of cops, particularly following the murder of his neighbor, American expatriate Gregory Faull.

He and Faull had been beefing over the half-dozen or so dogs McAfee is said to have kept on his property — and McAfee later claimed they'd all been poisoned.

But while McAfee insisted that he'd had nothing to do with Faull's death, he refused to speak with authorities about the case, making him a fugitive in the eyes of Belize authorities — though he talked to plenty of other folks about it, including comic Joe Rogan. He was just as chatty in August 2015 when, as CNBC reported, he "was arrested by the Tennessee Highway Patrol for DUI and possession of a handgun while under the influence."

His explanation? McAfee pointed to Xanax.

"I had just that morning received a prescription for Xanax from a doctor," he told the network. "I'd never taken them before." He added that he was pulled over after dropping his phone — and even though he had a weapon, he stressed that possessing a gat while driving in Tennessee is perfectly lawful as long as an individual isn't impaired.

Legal complications didn't slow McAfee down. He put money behind BlackCert, a Denver-based company specializing in online encryption — and BlackCert's co-founder and president, John Casaretto, was said to be the senior campaign manager for a 2016 McAfee presidential bid, which he pimped at events such as TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco.

Among McAfee's most memorable quotes from the period: "I will be president. You can laugh if you want."

Despite this prediction, McAfee failed to secure the Libertarian nomination for president in 2016 and 2020. Meanwhile, he ran afoul of both the tax division of the U.S. Department of Justice, which filed criminal charges against him on October 5, 2020, and the Securities and Exchange Commission, whose release on the subject from that same date accused McAfee and his bodyguard, Jimmy Watson Jr., of "promoting investments in initial coin offerings (ICOs) to his Twitter followers without disclosing that he was paid to do so."

The SEC maintained that "McAfee promoted multiple ICOs on Twitter, allegedly pretending to be impartial and independent even though he was paid more than $23 million in digital assets for the promotions. When certain investors asked whether he was paid to promote the ICOs, McAfee allegedly denied receiving any compensation from the issuers. The complaint alleges that McAfee made other false and misleading statements, such as claiming that he had personally invested in some of the ICOs and that he was advising certain issuers. The complaint alleges that Watson assisted McAfee by negotiating the promotion deals with the ICO issuers, helping McAfee cash out the digital asset payments for the promotions and, for one of the ICOs McAfee was promoting, having his then-spouse tweet interest in the ICO. Watson was allegedly paid at least $316,000 for his role. According to the complaint, while McAfee and Watson profited, investors were left holding digital assets that are now essentially worthless."

Federal authorities won't get a chance to make McAfee pay for these alleged violations now — but the legacy he's left behind boasts at least as many twists as relational yoga.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts