MEXICO CITY (AP) — Software company founder John McAfee said Monday he has fled from Belize using a bizarre ruse, adding yet another chapter in what threatens to become one of the biggest media fugitive frenzies since O.J. Simpson led police on a low-speed chase in 1994.
McAfee claimed in a blog posting he had evaded authorities by staging an elaborate distraction in neighboring Mexico.
In an email to The Associated Press, McAfee confirmed a posting to his website in which he described, in what appeared to be joking tones, how he mounted the ruse.
"My 'double,' carrying on (sic) a North Korean passport under my name, was detained in Mexico for pre-planned misbehavior," McAfee wrote in the posting, "but due to indifference on the part of authorities (he) was evicted from the jail and was unable to serve his intended purpose in our exit plan."
It was a turn typical of the bizarre saga of the eccentric anti-virus company founder wanted for questioning in connection with the killing of fellow American ex-pat Gregory Viant Faull, who was shot to death at the Belize island where they both had homes in early November.
Since then, McAfee has refused to turn himself in for questioning saying he fears Belizean police would kill him, and has titillated the media with phone calls, emails and blog posts detailing his life on the lam. It has all resulted in a rather undignified media scrum to get interviews with McAfee, complete with taunts.
Vice magazine, two of whose journalists are reportedly traveling with McAfee, posted a story on its website entitled "We Are with John McAfee Right Now, Suckers," along with a photos showing McAfee and VICE editor-in-chief Rocco Castoro.
Wired magazine later said on its website that location information embedded in the photo shows McAfee and the journalists were at Guatemala's Rio Dulce National Park, near the border with Belize, when the photo was taken.
A representative of the Faull family said Monday that the real issues — the murder of an American who by all accounts was well-liked by his neighbors on Belize's Ambergris Caye — are getting lost.
"The real issues are that a human life was violently taken, (and) authorities lack all the information ... we're beyond the danger of them being lost, it's become entertainment. This is tragic to the family," said Dan Keeney of Texas-based DPK Public Relations, who has issued statements on behalf of the Faull family.
A woman who answered the phone at an Orlando, Florida phone number listed for Vickie Faull confirmed she was a relative and said that Keeney spoke on behalf of the family, but had no further comment.
"Mr. McAfee is astute at media manipulation, and he's using those skills to great effect," said Keeney. "I would just caution the media not to let themselves be manipulated."
Keeney added in email that "we strongly urge journalists covering the McAfee story not to glorify the words and actions of this person who, by refusing to cooperate and tell police all he knows about the murder of Greg Faull, is harming the investigation of the murder."
"The family of Mr. Faull is concerned that journalists may be assisting Mr. McAfee either implicitly by helping him to create an elaborate fiction that undermines trust in authorities or explicitly in his efforts to escape."
Police in Belize have called McAfee a "person of interest" in the slaying of Faull and asked him to turn himself in for questioning. He has not been charged, however, and thus can travel at will.
Faull was shot to death in his home, a couple of houses down from the compound where McAfee kept several noisy dogs, armed guards and entertained a steady stream of young women brought in from the mainland. McAfee acknowledges that his dogs were bothersome and that Faull had complained about them, but denied killing Faull. Several of the dogs were poisoned shortly before Faull's killing.
For two weeks, McAfee refused to turn himself in and claimed to be hiding in plain sight, wearing disguises and watching as police raided his house. It was unclear, however, how much of what McAfee — a confessed practical joker — said and wrote was true.
McAfee did not describe the entire plan, nor did he say where exactly he was now. He noted only that "we are not in Belize, but not quite out of the woods yet."
In a previous interview with the AP, McAfee had said he had no plans to leave Belize.
"I'm not going to leave this country," he had told the AP. "I love this country, this is my home. I intend to fight the injustice that's here from here, I can't do much from outside, can I?"
In Monday's post, McAfee said he left Belize because he thought "Sam," the young Belizean woman who has accompanied him since he went on the lam, was in danger.
"I left Belize because of a series of events which led both Sam and I to believe that she was in danger of capture. She has been my go-between and my eyes and ears in the outside world. I decided to make the move. I will be returning to Belize after I have place (sic) Sam in a safe position. My fight is in Belize, and I can do little in exile."
Police sources in Belize said early Monday they believed he was still in the country. The sparsely populated border between the two countries is unguarded and unmarked in many places.
Rumors arose over the weekend that McAfee had been caught, but Belizean police quickly denied that.
Belize's prime minister, Dean Barrow, has expressed doubts about McAfee's mental state: "I don't want to be unkind to the gentleman, but I believe he is extremely paranoid, even bonkers."
McAfee, who is extremely polite and coherent in telephone conversations, brushes off such accusations, telling the AP "if people want to call that paranoia, they can do so if you wish, that will not concern me."
McAfee, the creator of the McAfee antivirus program, has led an eccentric life since he sold his stake in the anti-virus software company that is named after him in the early 1990s and moved to Belize about three years ago to lower his taxes.
He told The New York Times in 2009 that he had lost all but $4 million of his $100 million fortune in the U.S. financial crisis. However, a story on the Gizmodo website quoted him as calling that claim "not very accurate at all." He has dabbled in yoga, ultra-light aircraft and producing herbal medications.
McAfee has never said where he's hiding. But in his blog, he has claimed to have disguised himself as a grungy street peddler and a foul-mouthed German tourist.
Earlier on HuffPost:
Photos Of Strangle Victim
In December 2010, a former New York EMT, Mark Musarella, pleaded guilty to charges of misconduct and disorderly conduct, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/10/mark-musarella-emt-admits_n_795227.html" target="_hplink">according to the AP</a>. "Prosecutors say Musarella responded to a March 30, 2009, emergency call in Staten Island, where he snapped a picture of a woman who had been strangled. He then posted the image on [Facebook], <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/10/mark-musarella-emt-admits_n_795227.html" target="_hplink">the AP also writes</a>.
Risqué Photo Swap
In July 2011, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/22/joseph-bernard-campbell-stole-nude-photos_n_906975.html" target="_hplink">Joseph Bernard Campbell said he would plead guilty</a> to charges of cyberstalking and unauthorized access to a computer. "At least 19 women were victimized by a computer hacker who broke into their email accounts, captured risqué photographs of the women and then swapped them for the women's Facebook profile pictures, authorities say," <a href="http://www2.tbo.com/news/breaking-news/2011/jul/20/3/computer-hacker-places-risque-photos-of-women-on-t-ar-245211/" target="_hplink">reports Tampa Bay Online</a>.
'Attack A Teacher Day' Event
In Carson City, Nevada a group of six girls (ages 12 to 13) were arrested in January 2011 for allegedly posting threatening comments on the wall of a Facebook event titled "<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/07/attack-a-teacher-day-face_n_806126.html" target="_hplink">Attack A Teacher Day</a>." <a href="http://www.nevadaappeal.com/article/20110106/NEWS/110109788/1070&ParentProfile=1058" target="_hplink">According to the Nevada Appeal</a>, posts apparently written by the girls contained the word "attack." "All of the girls said it was just a joke," Carson City Sheriff's Deputy Jessica Rivera <a href="http://www.nevadaappeal.com/article/20110106/NEWS/110109788/1070&ParentProfile=1058" target="_hplink">told the Appeal</a>.
In April 2011, two preteen girls from a Seattle suburb were charged with cyberstalking and first-degree computer trespassing. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/04/27/facebook-cyberstalking-preteen-girls-charged_n_854605.html" target="_hplink">Reuters reports</a> that the girls "allegedly post[ed] sexually explicit photos and comments on the Facebook page of a 12-year-old classmate" and were "accused of using the third girl's computer address to send out instant message solicitations for sex using her name."
London Eley of Philadelphia allegedly used Facebook to find and hire someone to kill Corey White, the father of her child. "I will pay somebody a stack to kill my baby father," Eley wrote, <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/crime&id=8188762" target="_hplink">according 6ABC.com</a>. A man named Timothy Bynum allegedly accepted Eley's offer, writing, "say no more," "what he look like?" and "need dat stack 1st," <a href="http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/story?section=news/crime&id=8188762" target="_hplink">reports 6ABC.com</a>. White alerted the authorities to the alleged correspondence between Eley and Bynum, both of whom were taken into custody in June 2011. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/17/corey-white_n_929332.html#s332101&title=Corey_White" target="_hplink">White was shot in August</a> while Eley and Bynum remained in jail.
After days of riots and looting rocked U.K. cities earlier in August, <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-14488055" target="_hplink">the BBC reported</a> that authorities had arrested several people for allegedly inciting violence via Facebook posts. <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/uk-police-arrests-10-more-over-facebook-posts-inciting-riots/2505?tag=content;siu-container" target="_hplink">According to ZDNET</a>, Scotland Yard had said it would seek out individuals believed to have written "really inflammatory, inaccurate" Facebook messages. By the end of August, nearly 2,000 had been arrested in connection with the riots, <a href="http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/aug/21/uk-riots-nearly-2000-arrested" target="_hplink">reports the Guardian</a>.
In April 2011, Houston police apprehended four suspects in a bank robbery case. Police said that suspicious Facebook posts led them to connect the group, including two bank tellers, to the heist. The following are among the alleged Facebook posts, <a href="http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/4-arrested-in-Houston-bank-heist-after-boasts-on-1691864.php" target="_hplink">according to the Houston Chronicle</a>: ""Get $$$" and "'WIPE MY TEETH WITH HUNDEREDS [sic]."
List Ranking Girls
An Illinois teenager was arrested in May 2011 for allegedly distributing (via Facebook) a provocative list that <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/12/high-school-sex-ranking-list_n_860779.html" target="_hplink">ranked the physical appearance of 50 girls from his high school</a>. According to the <em><a href="http://www.suntimes.com/5294285-417/oak-park-police-charge-boy-who-allegedly-made-sex-ranking-list.html" target="_hplink">Chicago Sun Times</a></em>, the list in question "described the girls by explicit, derogatory nicknames and assessed their physical appearance, sexual desirability, sexual activity and other characteristics". <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/12/high-school-sex-ranking-list_n_860779.html" target="_hplink">The Associated Press lists nicknames</a> like "Fallen Angel," "Blond Bombshell" and "The Hangover." "He obviously offended people but he also has a right to free speech," criminal defense attorney Mark Gottesman<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/12/high-school-sex-ranking-list_n_860779.html" target="_hplink"> told The Huffington Post</a>.
In September 2010, <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-status-read-engaged-cops-call-statutory-rape/story?id=11626836" target="_hplink">Robert Nickson Jr, a 27 year-old Pennsylvania man was arrested</a> for an alleged relationship with a 14-year-old girl. <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-status-read-engaged-cops-call-statutory-rape/story?id=11626836" target="_hplink">Writes ABC News</a>: <blockquote>A Delaware County Criminal Investigation Division's special task force, nicknamed Operation Triad, which investigates child pornography and predators, was tipped off by the county's child welfare agency after Nickson posted photos of himself and the girl online. </blockquote>
Threats On Officials
Former U.S. Congress candidate Cheryl Allen was arrested and charged in January 2011 for reportedly threatening several civil servants. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/01/15/cheryl-allen-charged-with_n_809596.html" target="_hplink">According to the Associated Press,</a> "The alleged threats mentioned four Morgan County judges, and other public officials [...] were mentioned by first name. Media reports said Allen had previously filed a discrimination lawsuit that was dismissed by a judge."
In late January 2011, a group of four Florida teens, ages 13 through 14, were arrested at their school for allegedly directing threats towards another classmate via Facebook. "Mistakenly believing that a middle school classmate had caused the arrest of a friend, a quartet of Florida teenagers exchanged Facebook messages discussing the killing of the suspected 'snitch,'" <a href="http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/internet/teens-arrested-facebook-death-threats" target="_hplink">reports The Smoking Gun</a>. The Smoking Gun also published some of the purported threats, detailed <a href="http://www.thesmokinggun.com/file/facebook-death-threat?page=0" target="_hplink">in the police report</a>: - "He ruined my bestfriend's life! And ima end his!!" - "Oh that little bitch is dead. Just u have to show me who he is first then he is dead." - "IMA HELP KILL HIM!! THAT PUNK RUINED OUR LIVES!! HES SOO DEAD!!"
In May 2011 <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/05/woman-allegedly-bragged-o_n_858226.html" target="_hplink">Chicago resident Ruth Ramirez</a>, 26, turned herself in to police over an alleged bar brawl in April, during which Ramirez was said to have broken a glass in another woman's face. According to a statement by police, <a href="http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/news/local/chibrknews-prosecutors-bragging-on-facebook-leads-to-charges-20110504,0,2182393.story" target="_hplink">reported by Chicago Breaking News</a>, a friend of the victim was on Facebook the day after the fight and noticed a post describing the incident in detail. "She showed the post to the victim, who identified her attacker by the photograph posted on the profile. [...] The victim called police and gave them the information, and an investigative alert was issued," <a href="http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/news/local/chibrknews-prosecutors-bragging-on-facebook-leads-to-charges-20110504,0,2182393.story" target="_hplink">wrote CBN</a>.
Relationship Status Change
In February 2011, Eric James Wilson, 21, was arrested in Palm Bay, Florida for <a href="http://www.clickorlando.com/news/26860530/detail.html" target="_hplink">allegedly assaulting his then-wife</a>. <a href="http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/man-arrested-over-facebook-relationship-status/220" target="_hplink">According to ZDNET</a>, police charged Wilson with "battery domestic violence and a misdemeanor." The fight reportedly started after Wilson changed his Facebook relationship status from "married" to "single."