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The whirlwind that was John McAfee

John David McAfee, born in Gloucestershire, England in 1945, moved to Roanoke, Virginia with his parents when he was young. An entrepreneurial type from a young age, he started off selling magazines door-to-door. His basic computer skills were learnt at a company that coded punch-card systems in the late ‘60s. He had a myriad of jobs and dabbled with illicit drugs whilst learning about the new computer systems, before tackling the first computer viruses that were known, his niche as you might say. He began McAfee Associates in 1987 which became one of the major security software companies of that time after he infected his own computer with a virus and wrote a program to ‘disinfect’ his PC of it. John was always controversial, eccentric, and a complete wild card. From the birth of a top-tier company, to murder accusations, to running for president, to suicide in a Spanish prison. Somewhat of a different life lived compared to tech geniuses over the world.

Resigning from his self-made business in the mid 90’s and selling his stakes, he amounted to around $100 million, but with a financial crisis hitting in the 2000’s his net worth declined to a mere $4 million. McAfee Associates continued and thrived once he resigned, and renamed themselves Intel Security, in a bid to distance itself from the McAfee name, and once the computer chip manufacturer Intel purchased the company for around $7.7 billion from John.

People might wonder why the company didn’t want to linger with the founder’s name, but McAfee had several fleeting enterprises, including ventures such as a firewall provider, an IMS and apparently even a ranch providing flights in “trikes” (cabins suspended from hang-gliders). His illegal activities and attention from the police force began when he moved out to Belize in 2008. Lawsuits were pouring in over his name and his small businesses, so he fled, to Belize. This is where he founded the company QuorumEx, set up to make herbal based antibiotics from the various plants found in the Belizean jungles. The Gang Suppression Unit of Belize’s police force raided the lab in 2012, as they believed it to be a methamphetamine production lab. The police confiscated all his licenced weaponry and his passport, and he was imprisoned for a brief period before the charges were dropped after no illegal drugs were found on the premises.

Whilst living in Belize, two doors down from his beachside compound was John’s neighbour, Gregory Faull, who was often agitated by how loud and disruptive McAfee’s lifestyle was, with nine dogs and being surround by underage girls and bodyguards, even complaining to the local mayor about the nuisance. Two days after, Gregory’s housekeeper found him dead with a gunshot to the head. John was a person of interest straight away as he knew about Faull’s complaining, local authorities went on the search for McAfee, and McAfee went on the run. John was still conducting interviews whilst on the run from the police, and spent some time with journalists from Vice, one of whom may have let on to the authorities about his location, after leaving metadata on one of the photos they posted, allowing him to be tracked down. He was eventually apprehended by Guatemalan police in December 2012 for entering the country illegally, and to avoid being deported back to Belize, he faked two heart attacks. He got deported to Miami instead. In 2013, he posted a bizarre ‘parody’ video, of “how to uninstall McAfee software”, supposedly taking fake drugs and surrounded by less-than-half-dressed women.

McAfee was neither arrested nor charged for the death of his neighbour, and once deported back to Miami he met his wife, Janice McAfee. They then moved to a rural area, Lexington, Tennessee, always under protection by an armed bodyguard. John hadn’t quite had enough publicity, so whilst “in exile” he ran for president. Yep, seriously. In 2016 he ran for president under a new party he created - the Cyber Party. He then changed tack and attempted to win the Libertarian Party’s nomination, advocating a revamp of the US’ cybersecurity system. He came in third, with Gary Johnson winning the presidency. The then ran for president again in 2020, serving the “crypto community” but dropped out after mere months.

So, how did he end up in a Spanish prison? After serving the crypto community in his short run for president in 2020, he was caught up by the Department of Justice for tax evasion and failing to file tax returns for 4 years, getting arrested in Spain in October 2020 after attempting to flee to Turkey. Shortly after, he was charged by the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) for security fraud. After John had returned to the US, whilst living rurally, he was promoting cryptocurrencies on Twitter, failing to mention that he got revenue for advertising them.

During this he is said to have made around $23 million between 2017 and February 2021. John was also accused of buying large amounts of cheap, practically unknown cryptocurrencies, promoting them on his Twitter and them selling them off for a large profit. John was also accused of concealing expensive assets such as real estate and yachts in other names.

In March of this year, McAfee was indicted on several additional charges of fraud and money laundering. He resisted extradition to the US, as he claimed he faced political persecution. If convicted of all charges he faced, he would’ve had to serve upwards of 30 years in prison. This month, hours before he was found dead, it was announced he would be extradited to the US to face charges. His body was found at around 1.00pm ET, at Brians 2 penitentiary in north-eastern Spain, where efforts to revive him failed. The Catalan Justice Department mentioned in a statement that “everything indicates” that he took his own life. Three days before he was found dead, Janice McAfee publicly claimed that the US wanted him to die in prison.

“John’s honesty has often gotten him in trouble with corrupt governments and corrupt government officials because of his outspoken nature and his refusal to be extorted, intimidated or silenced,” – Janice McAfee.

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