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Cybersecurity guru John McAfee — who was found hanged in jail cell this week — had been hiding out for years in a Spanish “ghost hotel” owned by a Russian who allegedly used it to run a secret bitcoin farm, according to reports.
The paranoid 75-year-old tycoon repeatedly sent out messages that he was in numerous places across the globe, including Belarus and Norway — the latter where he lied about being arrested for wearing a thong as a mask.
But web sleuths were constantly analyzing his images and messages — tracing him to a mysterious hotel in Cambrils in Catalonia, Spanish newspaper El Confidencial first revealed after his arrest last October.
Numerous tips — from images of beaches to Spanish products in his photos — tied him to having stayed at the Daurada Park Hotel, which the outlet called a “ghost hotel” where no one answers the phone and it is impossible to make reservations.
The Daurada had come under suspicion from local officials after a huge laser pointing at the sky was built on the roof soon after it was bought by an unidentified Russian businessman, the Diari de Tarragona had earlier revealed.
It had been raided by local police in 2018 — revealing a so-called bitcoin farm that was working 24-7, the outlet revealed.
Officers reportedly found a set of computers in the basement and garages constantly “mining” the internet to solve computer problems in exchange for a fee in bitcoins, the paper said then.
It was not immediately clear if anyone was charged at the time or if attempts were made to shut down the operation.
But despite being synonymous with online security, the web sleuths — many of whom appear to have since had their Twitter pages removed — found McAfee through a series of simple slip-ups, El Confidencial reported.
It included his photos on beaches and balconies matching Google Maps images of the mysterious hotel — as well as him being surrounded by Spanish products in pics he claimed to be taken more than 1,750 miles away in Belarus, the paper said.
Infuriated at getting found, he eventually confessed that he had been in Catalonia, even tweeting about how he “visited Spain for a few days.”
But he had actually been based there since at least March last year, seven months before his arrest on a slew of tax-evasion charges in the US — and was possibly there for years, the paper said.
“He himself has said that he often came to Catalonia since 2018 or 2019 and it seems that he was based in this hotel,” one of the online researchers told El Confidencial.
McAfee had on Wednesday just been ordered to be extradited back to the US when he was found hanged in his Barcelona jail cell.
Both he and his wife had hinted online that if he was found dead that way it would not be suicide, but Spanish authorities have so far insisted that there appears to be no foul play involved.
Some of the US charges he faced included a pump-and-dump scheme involving cryptocurrencies that he was touting on social media.
In that case, McAfee and an accomplice allegedly bilked bitcoin investors out of some $13 million in two schemes, including one where they bought up large quantities of “alt-coin,” then inflated the price of it by publicizing it on Twitter.
They then sold off the cryptocurrency at the inflated price and made a $2 million profit, prosecutors said. He had been facing up to 30 years in jail if convicted of all the charges against him.
El Confidencial said it tried to contact the owners of the Daurada to comment on its expose — but, befitting its “ghost hotel” reputation, found it impossible to reach anyone.
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