Software entrepreneur John McAfee was arrested and charge with multiple offenses, the Justice Department and Commodity Futures Trading Commission said Friday. File Photo by Saul Martinez/EPA
March 5 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors have charged antivirus software mogul John McAfee and an adviser with conspiracy to commit fraud, among other crimes, in a scheme involving cryptocurrency investments, authorities said Friday.
The founder of the McAfee antivirus software company and associate Jimmy Gale Watson have been charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
Officials said the charges relate to two plots to fraudulently promote cryptocurrencies qualifying under federal law as commodities or securities.
Authorities said agents arrested McAfee in Spain and Watson in Texas. Their arrests were announced Friday after indictments were unsealed in U.S. District Court in New York.
"As alleged, McAfee and Watson exploited a widely used social media platform and enthusiasm among investors in the emerging cryptocurrency market to make millions through lies and deception," U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement.
"The defendants allegedly used McAfee's Twitter account to publish messages to hundreds of thousands of his Twitter followers touting various cryptocurrencies through false and misleading statements to conceal their true, self-interested motives."
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission also filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York charging both men for a scheme it says involved numerous digital assets, including Verge, Dogecoin and Reddcoin.
McAfee, Watson and other members of McAfee's cryptocurrency team are accused of taking in more than $13 million from investors in the fraudulent schemes.
"Manipulative and fraudulent schemes, like that alleged in this case, undermine the integrity and development of digital assets and cheat innocent people out of their hard-earned money," CFTC Acting Director of Enforcement Vincent McGonagle said in a statement.
"Financial innovation is constantly breaking new ground, and [our] enforcement efforts must keep up. We will always act to hold fraudsters and manipulators accountable for misconduct."