Fact check: No evidence John McAfee owned unit in partially collapsed Florida condo

The claim: John McAfee owned a unit in a partially collapsed condominium building in Florida

Conspiracy theorists are attempting to connect the death of antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee to the Florida high-rise building that partially collapsed on June 24.

McAfee was found dead June 23 in a Spanish prison, where he was awaiting extradition to the United States on criminal tax evasion charges. He was 75 years old.

The next day, a condominium in Surfside, Florida, collapsed, resulting in at least four deaths and more than 150 missing people.

The two events are unrelated, but some social media users say there's a nefarious connection.

"John McAfee owned a unit at the building that collapsed. The address of the building was 8777 Collins Avenue South," reads text in a June 25 Instagram post.

Below the text is a screenshot of a purported June 8 tweet from McAfee that reads: "If anything ever happens to me, please know that the 31TB (terabytes) of files I have are located on hard drives in my condo near 88th Street and Collins Avenue just north of Miami Beach."

Fact check: Melted traffic lights, recycling bins, street signs were not caused by heat waves

Similar versions of the claim have been shared widely on Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and blogs.

But there is no evidence to support these claims. The McAfee tweet is fabricated. And while the exact cause of the building collapse remains unknown, officials say no foul play is suspected.

USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram user who shared the post for comment.

McAfee tweet is fabricated

The screenshot of the tweet matches the details of McAfee's official Twitter profile, but there is no trace of the post on his page.

An advanced search of McAfee's profile shows he never published the tweet.

On June 8, he posted two tweets, one of which has the same timestamp as the purported screenshot, indicating it could have been the template for a digitally fabricated tweet. Neither mention hard drives stored at a condo near Miami Beach.

The only McAfee tweet about 31 terabytes of files is from June 9, 2019, in which he claimed he owned incriminating data "on corruption in governments." But he never said where the files were located.

John Silva, senior director of education and training at the nonprofit News Literacy Project, noted on Twitter that these claims are part of wider conspiracy theories about McAfee's death, including the baseless claim — pushed by QAnon supporters — that the "deep state" had him killed.

QAnon conspiracy theorists baselessly allege the existence of a satanic cabal of cannibalistic, child-abusing political elites, business leaders and Hollywood celebrities who are actively working against former President Donald Trump.

Fact check: CNN did not lighten image of alleged Seattle shooter

Doctored tweets are a popular tactic among those who spread misinformation. USA TODAY has debunked fake tweets from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. All three are frequent targets of conspiracy theories.

USA TODAY contacted McAfee's attorney for additional comment.

Cause of collapse still unknown

An Associated Press review of property records at the Champlain Towers South Condo building found that neither McAfee nor his wife, Janice McAfee, are listed as owners of any units.

Investigators are still looking into the cause of the collapse. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava told ABC News that, while foul play is not ruled out, "at this point, (there's) nothing to indicate that."

The partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo is pictured in Surfside, Florida. Families wait to hear news about their loved ones as rescue efforts continued late Thursday
The partially collapsed Champlain Towers South condo is pictured in Surfside, Florida. Families wait to hear news about their loved ones as rescue efforts continued late Thursday

Experts say there are many different factors that could have contributed to the building collapse, including sea-level rise, instability of the ground beneath the building and lax oversight of its construction.

Our rating: False

The claim that McAfee owned a unit in a partially collapsed condo building in Florida is FALSE, based on our research. Records show McAfee did not own a property at Champlain Towers South Condo. McAfee did not publish the tweet cited in the Instagram post. Authorities have not determined a cause for the collapse, but they have said there is no evidence of foul play.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: John McAfee tweet about condo in Florida is fake