John McAfee, the creator of the antivirus software that shares his name, was reportedly found dead in a Spanish prison cell on Wednesday. Just two days earlier, a judge in that country approved a plan to extradite McAfee to the United States on charges of tax evasion.
McAfee created his antivirus software in 1987 at just the right time to capitalize on the boom in personal computing. He resigned from his company in 1994 but still managed to make an estimated $100 million from his ownership stake.
The news of his apparent death was first reported by Spanish newspaper El Mundo, which cited a statement from Spain’s Departamento de Justicia. The British-American entrepreneur was 75 years old. Reuters also reported the development.
Crazy life — While McAfee made his wealth creating boring computer programs, his public image was defined more by erratic behavior, excessive drug use, and frequent run-ins with law enforcement around the globe.
McAfee lived for a time in Belize, and first entered the public consciousness in 2012 when police there began searching for him as a “person of interest” in connection to the murder of his neighbor, who was found dead of a gunshot wound. McAfee evaded police and never submitted himself to questioning because he was afraid they would kill him. He spent the next few months traveling through South America before being deported from Guatemala, where he claimed he faked a series of heart attacks in order to be sent to the United States instead of extradited to Belize.
McAfee was never charged in the murder of his neighbor.
Many geniuses are known for having eccentric personalities — their power and success makes them unafraid of others’ opinions. But McAfee was far and beyond, known for paranoid tendencies and frequently making wild public statements.
In 2017 for instance, McAfee, who had become an enthusiast of cryptocurrency, predicted that the price of one bitcoin would jump to $500,000 within three years, and if not, “I will eat my own dick on national television.” He later walked back that promise.
Tax evasion — McAfee was a libertarian and ran for U.S. president in both 2016 and 2020. Among his other views, he advocated for decriminalization of cannabis, an end to the war on drugs, and a free market that doesn’t redistribute wealth. But his stance on taxes is seemingly what led to his demise. McAfee contended that taxes are illegal, and in 2019 claimed that he hadn’t filed a tax return since 2010. He said that he was being targeted by the IRS, which was later confirmed by the U.S. government’s extradition attempts.
In order to avoid arrest, McAfee said he would live internationally on a boat. Himself and his entourage were arrested in July 2019 in the Dominican Republic on suspicion of carrying high-caliber weapons and ammunition but release several days later.
At the time of his self-imposed exile from Belize, the prime minister there called McAfee “extremely paranoid, even bonkers.” Later when he was hiding from American officials over his tax avoidance, he repeatedly tweeted out cryptic statements suggesting that the government would try and murder him and cover it up as a suicide. “Know that if I hang myself, a la Epstein, it will be no fault of mine,” read one tweet.
McAfee in 2020 fabricated a hoax that he was arrested in Norway for refusing to wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic. But his photos from the incident didn’t line up with his story and police confirmed he wasn’t arrested.