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Fyre Festival Cofounder Billy McFarland Arrested on Wire Fraud Charge

Billy McFarland, the 25-year-old who cofounded the disastrous Fyre Festival with Ja Rule, has been arrested and charged with one count of wire fraud. The New York Times reports that McFarland is accused of misrepresenting both his personal wealth and the value of Fyre Media.

“As alleged, William McFarland promised a ‘life changing’ music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster,”acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said in a statement. “McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival.”

One of those documents sent to potential investors allegedly said that Fyre Media—a website designed to help people book celebrities for special events—earned millions of dollars in revenue in 2016 and 2017; the company’s actual revenue over that period was just $57,443, according to the complaint. McFarland also allegedly altered a Scottrade statement to show that he owned $2.5 million in shares of a certain company when in reality his investment in the company totaled $1,500.

These “false representations” were used to convince two investors to invest $1.2 million into the doomed venture in late 2016 and early 2017, according to the complaint.

Fyre Festival was marketed as a luxury, all-inclusive music festival set in the Bahamas’ Exumas district with villa-style housing, gourmet catering, and headlining sets from Blink-182, Migos, and Major Lazer. Instead, thousands of festival-goers arrived on the island in late April to discover half-finished living quarters consisting of disaster relief tents, scant staff, and hastily-assembled cheese sandwiches. The festival was eventually cancelled, but it took organizers days to get all ticket-holders back home.

Since then, over a dozen lawsuits have been filed against McFarland and Ja Rule, many of which accuse them of exaggerating or otherwise misrepresenting the financial health of Fyre Media.

An attorney for Ja Rule, who was born Jeffery Atkins, told the Times that has not been arrested. “Mr. Atkins is not under arrest and we don’t perceive him to be a subject of this investigation,” Stacey Richman. If convicted, McFarland faces 20 years in prison.