Billy McFarland, the organizer behind disastrous music festival Fyre Fest, pleaded guilty today to two counts of wire fraud. In court, he told a judge he lied to investors and “grossly underestimated the resources that would be necessary to hold an event of this magnitude,” as reported by Bloomberg.
On June 30th of last year, the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York arrested and charged McFarland with wire fraud, also alleging that he misrepresented his company’s finances in order to attract investors for the festival. Speaking to US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan today, McFarland admitted he defrauded 80 investors and a ticket broker out of more than $26 million. “In an attempt to raise what I thought were needed funds,” he said, “I lied to investors about various aspects of Fyre Media and my personal finances.”
McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud and pleaded guilty to ripping off a ticketing vendor that spent $2 million to secure advance tickets for future iterations of Fyre Fest. Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum of 20 years in prison, but McFarland has struck a plea deal with the government which will reduce his sentence to eight to 10 years, with a fine of up to $300,000. McFarland will also pay restitution.
Fyre Fest, which McFarland organized with Ja Rule, was originally billed as an exclusive festival that would be attended by celebrities and influencers in April of last year. When ticket holders arrived — some of whom had paid well over $10,000 for the experience — they found a haphazard setup and were stranded on the island of Exuma in what was called a “tent city.” It became a cautionary tale of why not to trust Instagram sponcon, nomenclature for describing a failed event, and spawned an avalanche of amazing memes.
Currently McFarland is free on bail, and he will be sentenced on June 21st. Both he and his company Fyre Media are still facing over a dozen civil suits.