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What is John McAfee's net worth? Inside tax evasion scandal for hiding '$23 million, cryptocurrency and yacht'

The 75-year-old allegedly failed to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018 and hid assets from the Internal Revenue Service
John McAfee (Getty Images)
John McAfee (Getty Images)

Computer programmer and businessman John McAfee — who founded the anti-virus software company McAfee Associates in 1987 — was arrested and charged with tax evasion in Spain on October 5, 2020. As per reports of Daily Mail and The Guardian, the US Justice Department announced the charges shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought civil charges against him for making over $23.1 million in undisclosed compensation.

The 75-year-old allegedly failed to file tax returns from 2014 to 2018 and hid assets from the Internal Revenue Service, including real estate property, a vehicle and a yacht, in the names of other people, according to court papers. A June indictment charging McAfee with tax evasion and willful failure to file tax returns was unsealed in federal court in Memphis, Tennessee, where the United States is seeking to extradite him.


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According to US prosecutors, he earned millions while promoting "false and misleading" cryptocurrencies from November 2017 to February 2018, through consulting work, speaking engagements and the sale of the rights to his life story for a documentary. 

On March 5, 2021, reports said he was indicted for fraud and money laundering in connection with the promotion of cryptocurrencies. The court documents read, "John David McAfee and Jimmy Gale Watson Jr, the defendants and other members of McAfee's so-called cryptocurrency team (the McAfee Team) perpetrated two fraudulent schemes..."

John McAfee (Getty Images)

Civil penalty and permanent ban?

"McAfee leveraged his fame to make more than $23.1M in undisclosed compensation by recommending at least seven initial coin offerings or ICOs to his Twitter followers," the SEC said, adding, "McAfee's recommendations were 'materially false and misleading,' in that he tried to sell 'virtually worthless' cryptocurrency tokens by encouraging investors to buy the securities without disclosing his own holdings."

As per Daily Mail, the SEC is seeking to impose a civil penalty as well as disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with interest and also wants to ban him permanently from serving as an officer or director of any listed company. Moreover, the agency has also filed charges against his bodyguard Jimmy Gale Watson Jr for helping McAfee and abetting the sale of the digital currencies, among other allegations.

"Potential investors in digital asset securities are entitled to know if promoters were compensated by the issuers of those securities," Kristina Littman, the SEC's cyber unit chief said. "McAfee, assisted by Watson, allegedly leveraged his fame to deceptively touting numerous digital asset securities to his followers without informing investors of his role as a paid promoter."

John McAfee (Getty Images)

Who is John McAfee?

Born in Cinderford, the United Kingdom, on September 18, 1945, he was raised in Salem, Virginia, by his American father and British mother. At 15, he went through a family turmoil after his abusive alcoholic father allegedly killed himself with a gunshot. 

After dabbling through several jobs at NASA's Institute for Space Studies in New York City, Univac, Xerox, Computer Sciences Corporation, Booz Allen Hamilton and Lockheed, he founded McAfee Associates, a computer anti-virus company in 1987. The company went public in 1992 in Delaware but McAfee resigned and sold all his stakes two years later in 1994, bringing his gains to about $100M. Network Associates was then formed as a merger of McAfee Associates and Network General. 

Known for his trademark tattoos, tinted hair and a person who is easily bored, he founded the Tribal Voice, which developed PowWow — one of the first instant messaging platforms — and also started a string of companies such as QuorumEx in 2010, Future Tense Central in 2013 along with an application named Cognizant to display information about the permissions of other installed applications.

He was then appointed CEO of MGT Capital Investments in 2016 but stepped down in August 2017 to focus on cryptocurrencies. However, he still has a significant stake in the company. He got associated with Luxcore in 2018 and was appointed the CEO of the cryptocurrency company focused on enterprise solutions.

John McAfee (Getty Images)

A look at his net worth and crimes 

The businessman — who has also announced a presidential campaign twice, in 2016 and 2020 — is worth millions but his real net worth is not known. According to The New York Times, his net worth from the sale of the anti-virus software in 2009 had dropped from $100 million to around $4 million. However, as his cryptocurrency holdings are unknown, the real amount could be in stark contrast to the reported net worth.

Back in 2012, he was embroiled in a police manhunt in Belize when his property in Orange Walk Town was raided by the Gang Suppression Unit of the Belize Police Department. He escaped the cops who wanted to question him on the death of his neighbor and reportedly entered Guatemala city and was reported to have faked heart attacks while being held in a Guatemalan detention center. At that time, he told CNN, "Everything I owned was in Belize. I left with nothing in my pocket."

His legal issues have been a topic of discussion since then as he has been arrested multiple times on counts of driving under influence, on suspicion of carrying weapons, for stirring up a hoax and for being on the run from the US authorities. As per a Cryptogeek report, his net worth has been analyzed to be between $9.2 million and $16.2 million. However, since the new report claims he had made over $23 million in undisclosed compensation, the real amount could be way higher. 

If convicted of all charges, McAfee could face up to 30 years in prison.