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John McAfee, the 90s software magnate-turned-globe-trotting fugitive, was found dead on Wednesday afternoon in a Spanish prison cell just hours after a court authorized his extradition to the United States on tax evasion charges. McAfee was 75.
“Confirmation has come from our legal team in Spain that John was found dead in his jail cell,” McAfee’s lawyer, Nishay K. Sanan, told The Daily Beast. “I am saddened to hear of the events and my prayers go out to his wife Janice. John was and will always be remembered as a fighter. He tried to love this country but the U.S. government made his existence impossible. They tried to erase him but they failed.”
According to Spanish newspaper El Mundo, which cited a statement from the Catalan Departamento de Justicia confirming the death, attempts by jail staff to resuscitate McAfee were unsuccessful. Reuters confirmed the department’s statement, which said the death was most likely a suicide.
In a bizarre twist, McAfee’s Instagram posted a large “Q” to its account shortly after his death was announced—an apparent nod to the outlandish QAnon conspiracy theory, which posits that the world is secretly run by a group of cannibalistic left-wing politicians.
McAfee shot to prominence in the 1990s as the creator of McAfee Associates, which made wildly popular commercial antivirus software. But, in his later years, he spiraled from libertarian tech guru to paranoid, conspiracy-obsessed outlaw accused of two rapes and a murder.
McAfee was arrested in October 2020 at Barcelona’s El Prat Airport before he could board a connecting flight to Istanbul. A U.S. indictment was then unsealed, charging McAfee with failing to pay taxes on millions of dollars he earned from, among other things, promoting cryptocurrencies, consulting work, and selling the rights to his life story. He owed $23 million, authorities alleged.
“The US believes I have hidden crypto,” McAfee tweeted on June 16. “I wish I did but it has dissolved through the many hands of Team McAfee (your belief is not required), and my remaining assets are all seized. My friends evaporated through fear of association. I have nothing. Yet, I regret nothing.”
At the time, McAfee was already on the run from Belizean authorities for allegedly murdering his neighbor, Greg Faull.
The US believes I have hidden crypto. I wish I did but it has dissolved through the many hands of Team McAfee (your belief is not required), and my remaining assets are all seized. My friends evaporated through fear of association.
I have nothing.
Yet, I regret nothing.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) June 16, 2021
“I got the news and I’ve talked with most of the family about it,” Faull’s father Arthur told The Daily Beast, before adding that McAfee’s death didn’t give him any sense of closure. “I gave up on him a long time ago. It’s been almost 12 years since he arranged for the murder of my son. The news we got said that he had arranged Greg’s murder, but no one has been able to prove anything and Belize refused to extradite him. So, it’s just one of those things that’s past history in my life.”
Asked if he had anything else he wanted people to know about McAfee, Faull said, “He’s not worth a comment.”
Although he was named a person of interest, McAfee was never charged in Faull’s death.
As for the U.S. tax charges, McAfee claimed they were politically motivated and were filed in retaliation for his failed presidential run as a libertarian candidate in the 2020 presidential election. At the time of McAfee’s arrest, Spanish prosecutor Carlos Bautista brushed off the accusation, responding that America’s Libertarian Party is a non-issue in the political world.
In the fall of 2019, McAfee launched a cryptocurrency called WHACKD. His announcement, which he made via Twitter, included a photoshopped image of Hillary Clinton happily eating a slice of pizza while two feet dangled from the ceiling above. Beneath that, a tagline read: “Epstein didn’t kill himself,” a none-too-subtle nod to accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide in a New York prison cell in 2019.
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) November 11, 2019
“How did this get started?” McAfee asked in one of his posts. “It’s popping up all over the place. I never said Jeffrey Epstein was murdered. I said he didn’t commit suicide. Not the same. Could be alive. Could have never existed. Maybe murdered. I dunno. I only know he didn’t commit suicide.”
“I was stunned by Epstein’s suicide, though probably not as much as Epstein himself,” he said in another.
An autopsy concluded that Epstein died by suicide. However, right-wing conspiracy theorists have since floated all manner of wild and unfounded ideas about Epstein having been killed for political purposes.
McAfee met his wife Janice, a sex worker, when he hired her to spend a night and the following day with him, he told 20/20 in 2017. He believed the Sinaloa cartel and the CIA were after him, and McAfee claimed to be armed at all times.
The CIA has attempted to collect us. We are at sea now and will report more soon. I will continue to be dark for the next few days. pic.twitter.com/o79zsbxISl
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) July 19, 2019
“He was often surrounded by up to 20 bodyguards, many of whom had been incarcerated, and were armed with double-barreled shotguns,” director Nanette Burstein told People magazine.
Burstein’s film pulled back the curtain on McAfee’s increasingly erratic behavior, with friends and associates describing him as a paranoid and violent man. One eye-popping allegation involved a team of thugs McAfee supposedly hired to torture a local man he believed had broken into his house in Belize. The man later died from the beating.
The film also delved into allegations by McAfee’s Harvard-educated business partner that he raped and drugged her after trying to sever ties with him.
“She fled the country immediately afterwards and reported what happened to the FBI,” Burstein told People, calling McAfee “a dangerous man.” “But unfortunately the FBI doesn’t have jurisdiction in Belize,” she said.
McAfee described his father in a 2012 interview with Wired as an alcoholic who beat him and his mother. His father shot himself when McAfee was 15.
“Every day I wake up with him,” McAfee told the magazine. “Every relationship I have, he’s by my side; every mistrust, he is the negotiator of that mistrust. So my life is fucked.”
Although he later became sober, McAfee was at one point dropping acid before work and drinking a bottle of Scotch a day at his desk. However, he didn’t seem to believe his cigarette habit was doing him any harm.
How old before I can prove that cigarettes have done me no harm? I have smoked 3,860,000 cigarettes in my life. All of my ancestors have smoked a similar volume and their average life span was 93. We beat non-smokers by 12 years. Native Americans smoked for 10,000 years. Get real
— John McAfee (@officialmcafee) February 13, 2018
This Father’s Day, Janice McAfee wrote a now ominous tweet about her husband’s plight in prison. “I know John is an extremely polarizing individual,” she wrote, adding that his penchant for “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.”
“Now the U.S. authorities are determined to have John die in prison to make an example of him for speaking out against the corruption within their government agencies,” the tweet continued. “The media continues to vilify him, per their narrative, and there is no hope of him ever having a fair trial in America because there is no longer any justice in America. You either play ball or get f**ked.”
She concluded: “These eight months John has spent in prison in Spain have been especially hard on his overall health both mentally and physically, as well as financially, but he is undeterred from continuing to speak truth to power.”
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.