John McAfee - don't vote McAfee

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with the McAfee employee who accuses him of sex trafficking

As John McAfee makes harsh counter-accusations, a look into the life of crypto’s nuttiest character

On May 16 at around 3 p.m., reports surfaced that crypto wildman John McAfee had been arrested in the Bahamas. “Developing events have made it necessary for John McAfee to go dark. Please be advised that this account will be operated by staff until further notice. More details will be released in time,” he said in a statement via Twitter just before noon.

But now a mysterious Twitter user—who claims she was with him at the time—says the software security giant marooned her in Nassau with no money or passport.

“Please help!” she said on May 15th on her Hamptons Drones twitter account, saying she needed money to fly home. But in a post on her business’s Facebook page on May 11, from before the trouble started, she made it sound like she already made plans to return that same week. “Good News…I’ll be back in the Hamptons just in time for Memorial Day….with a website up and running and photos for sale! Can’t wait see you all again[.]”

Calls to the hotel where she is believed to be staying identified her as Joanna Steidle, a woman connected to the Long Island real estate drone photography company Hamptons Drone. This information suggests that she is 46 year old and a resident in the hamlet of Water Mill, New York in the town of Southampton. What happened gives us a glimpse inside the life of one of crypto’s most interesting titans.

Modern Consensus reached Joanna—known as “Joanna Lyn” on Twitter—via phone in Nassau. “I have no money and no way to get it,” she said after McAfee left by boat.

What happened to start this dramatic turn of events? “No clue,” McAfee said in a text message to Modern Consensus. He then went on to make several accusations which cannot be verified by this publication: “She is a crack addict that i have worked with three times in the past 28 years. She gets clean–I hire her. She gets back on crack–I fire her. I will not hire her again.” In 2011 a woman named Joanna Steidle of Water Mill, NY was arrested and accused of stealing $8000 from her neighbors.

“I was in Cuba when she unravelled so i missed all the fun. When I returned and discovered all that she had done I fired her.”

This is a strange turn of events since it appears that Joanna and McAfee knew each other as far back as 1998, just four years after he resigned from his eponymous software company. McAfee and Joanna appear to have a long running business relationship. In August of 2018 she wrote on Twitter, “I worked for him for years….  I can’t put a price on the education @officialmcafee  gave me. – He is a master business man, he is using the wisdom and power he has to make millions and anyone mocking that is just jealous and insignificant.”

At the time McAfee responded, “A testimony from a past unpaid employee.” Her original message does not appear on McAfee’s timeline now, meaning that he has likely blocked her this week.

There is a lot to unravel here so let’s break it down in a timeline:

December 2018

Before her visit to the Caribbean the two were on friendly terms. A screenshot of a DM from McAfee before the trip says, “I want to cuddle you naked when you first show up.” She appears to have left New York on March 26, 2019.

April 28, 2019

Joanna had been in the Bahamas for over a month at this point. Her timeline shows great weather and lush sunsets. She appears to be happy. “I’ve been in the Bahamas 5 weeks & 3 days ….today is the first time I have seen real rain.” The next day on April 29, McAfee arrived in Cuba.

During this time, the Binance hack also happened and McAfee offered his cybersecurity services. “[I]f I can help in any way please let me know. Underneath my clown suit is still one of the most experienced cybersecurity experts on the planet. I’ve been doing it for 51 years. I am at your service.”

Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao responded, “Would love to pick your brain about it. Will DM you and arrange a time.”

May 11, 2019

When McAfee returned from Cuba, he found there was trouble at the Exuma Yacht Club where she was staying.  “I would like to leave as amicably as possible,” she texted McAfee on Saturday, May 11 in a few messages sent between 12:22 p.m. and 12:44 p.m.

At 1:11 p.m., her Hampton Drones Facebook Page was updated to say she was returning home.

“Good News…I’ll be back in the Hamptons just in time for Memorial Day….with a website up and running and photos for sale! Can’t wait see you all again[.]”

McAfee told Modern Consensus via text message, “If you doubt this contact anyone in Georgetown who knew her. You might start with the Exuma Yacht Club where I was paying for her room for a month. They forcibly threw her out for her weird behavior and drug use.”

May 12, 2019

However on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., McAfee messaged to say that his wife Janice decided not to have Joanna fired. “Janice lobbied to get your job back. I acquiesced.” At 10 p.m. she responded, “K.”

“Sunday night Mothers Day 2019 he told me I could stay in a room at the marina as there was no AC on boat,” Joanna told Modern Consensus in a phone call.

May 14, 2019: The lost passport

On Tuesday, May 14, Joanna messaged McAfee saying she would leave—for a price. “If you want you can bring $10,000 and your problem with disappear and she won’t come back.”

“He claims I threatened him here me in the green: Please note, John and I have have know each other since 1996,” she later said on Twitter, “this was not a threat….he know it.”

McAfee offered her $2,000 to return home. Joanna responded that she wanted $3,000 to get antibiotics in Nassau while she waited in a hotel to get a replacement passport. “I flushed the illegal antibiotics you sent Janice down with.”

McAfee responded, “I already paid you a month in advance less than three weeks ago. Give me [t]he weeks salary back. IMMEDIATELY!” It is not clear what their disagreement was, although in messages McAfee said that drugs were involved.

May 15, 2019: Calling the authorities

On Wednesday, May 15 McAfee told her via text, “Yo[u] need to sto[p] doing drugs Joanna.” She asked if McAfee would send the $3,000. In a back and forth with Joanna, McAfee responded, “I am watching you read my fucking messages, Joanna. Grow up.”

“[H]e has been watching me on cams in this room” she later said on Twitter. She was texting McAfee on the Android messaging system, which has read receipts and the “…” dotdotdot thing that pops up when someone is typing. McAfee was likely referring to this—that he could see her type and not send a response—rather than that he was watching her on a camera system.

Joanna then reached out to the U.S. embassy in the Bahamas.

They responded. “Mr McAffee (sic) can be charged for ‘human smuggling’ if charges are brought against him,” according to an email said to be from Barbara E. Wallace, who is the Supervisor of American Citizen Services at the U.S. embassy in Nassau.  “It is illegal for him to transport a human to any other country and abandon that individual. So with that being said, I will reach out to him to day for an update and let you know.”

Bizarrely, Joanna shared a screenshot and said, “Just notified by Embassy that @officialmcafee can POSSIBLY be charged with #humansmuggling.”

The embassy appeared to help McAfee send Joanna money for tickets. This is when it became apparent that Joanna’s story and McAfee’s would not line up. “I tried to give her $2000 to buy tickets,” McAfee said in an email to Wallace.

May 16, 2019: $1,000 offer and bribery accusations

On May 16 McAfee messaged her with a final offer, “I advise you to take the $1000. If not you will never get home. If you don’t take the money by 4:00, then I will reduce it to $500.” Joanna claimed that she needed money not just for the tickets, but for a hotel while she gets her new passport and for the $200 Uber ride from La Guardia airport in New York City to her home in Long Island.

Joanna claimed that McAfee bribed three witnesses to say that she threatened McAfee. This appears to be a misinterpretation due to what seems to be a typo by McAfee. His original message stated, “I gave (sic) three witnessed tgat (sic) all claimed you threatened my life.” The recurring “g” for “h” typo makes it look as if McAfee meant to type “I have three witnesses that all claimed you threatened my life.”

Joanna claims that she has no money or ID and that her health is declining. “I was taken by ambulance to the hospital. I am extremely ill. I’m being tested for an infectious disease. It’s one that comes from China,” she told Modern Consensus via phone.

We’ve said this before in our stories about McAfee, but this is what I know from having lived near him in the Caribbean. John McAfee is the human embodiment of McAfee virus detection software. He acts like a very paranoiac who is convinced that the world is secretly plotting against him. Spending time with him causes this to rub off on you. After all, if a great cybersecurity expert knows the internet’s dirty secrets then there must be something out there. When he got food poisoning in 2018 McAfee claimed, “My enemies maged to spike something that i ingested. However, I am more difficult to kill than anyone can possibly imagine.”

It makes sense, therefore, that Joanna thinks that McAfee can read and delete her emails (as she has alleged) or know when she is reading a message on her phone. (When I left a message at her hotel I identified myself as “Brendan from the States” she heard this message relayed to her as “Brendan from the State Department” and spent much of our conversation yelling at me at first. I apologized for causing her undue stress during an otherwise stressful time.

Friday May 17, 2019

McAfee and his wife Janice were reported to have arrived safely to their “new backyard as defiant, joyful and free as ever.”

Later this same day Modern Consensus first made contact with Steidle via DM and later confirmed with the hotel that she was safe.

Monday May 20, 2019

On Monday McAfee posted a QR code and said, “I’m back. Janice and I will be tweeting a video of our ‘vacation’ later today. MEANWHILE: Four 7s – the absolute best kind of luck.” He referred to the price of BTC in USD at the time. $7777.96.

The QR code associated with this Bitcoin address turns out to contain 0 BTC.

Tuesday May 21, 2019

In a video posted Tuesday McAfee and his wife explained that they “went dark” in responding to a tip that they were getting “raided.” It is not clear why. Exuma does not have income tax, nor does it consider it a crime not to pay income taxes; they do not extradite for tax issues.

It appeared at first that when McAfee left Nassau, he simply left her behind. But it now appears that he left her set up at the Exuma Yacht Club and tried to give her money to return home. The “going dark” matter appears to just mean that he was spooked by her attempt to involved the Nassau U.S. embassy.

“I don’t know how they’re going to send me money. I can’t receive money without a passport. I thought John was going to come through,” Joanna told us by phone. She said that when she called the US Embassy in Nassau they said they could issue her a passport, but she would first need a ticket out as proof that she needed it. “Now I can’t get a passport without another flight out.”

We don’t know anything about Joanna’s mental state. But her erratic behavior may make it harder for her to get the help she needs.  “It is costing him @officialmcafee more money to screw me over and break the law than to just comply with his legal obligation #mcafeesexslavesaga—-they are really screw my devices—-I was watching them change my recent call list right in front of me.” She later retweeted someone who said that McAfee could be in violation of the Mann act for human trafficking.

She has not accused McAfee of stealing from her, just of leaving her without her passport and wallet. “Passport and credit card were stolen,” she said in a message to McAfee’s security, but she has not seen any activity on her bank account that would suggest that she had been mugged. “Here’s the thing. If someone steals your debit card, they use it,” she later said by phone to Modern Consensus.

Joanna has stopped responding to all messages. Calls to the cell number she provided now go straight to voicemail. She hurried off the phone when we last spoke to her from the hospital, “I have a 103 fever, I’m burning up. I have to go.”

She later reappeared safely in the States.

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Brendan Sullivan is a writer, producer, and author of the memoir Rivington Was Ours: Lady Gaga, the Lower East Side, and the Prime of Our Lives. Disclosure: he owns cryptocurrencies. Follow him on Twitter.