Fyre Festival founder and organizer Billy McFarland pleaded not guilty to charges of wire fraud and making false statements to a bank during an appearance in Manhattan federal court yesterday, Variety reports.
McFarland faces two counts of wire fraud, one for allegedly defrauding investors in his company, Fyre Media, and a second for allegedly defrauding a ticket vendor. As part of the wire fraud charges, the government accuses McFarland of exaggerating Fyre Media’s revenue and his own personal wealth by falsifying documents such as emails, company financial statements, and stock ownership statements. Two additional charges of making false statements to a bank relate to McFarland’s attempts to secure loans.
The hearing in front of Judge Naomi Buchwald was “sparsely attended,” according to Variety. After being arrested in July, McFarland was represented at an initial hearing by a public defender. He’s now hired the firm Boies, Schiller & Flexner. The first pre-trial hearing is scheduled for December 13. If McFarland does not reach a deal with prosecutors, a trial could commence in early 2018. The maximum sentence for wire fraud is 20 years.
McFarland’s Fyre Media business partner, Ja Rule, doesn’t face criminal charges, but is named in a number of civil cases—such as those filed by angry festival attendees—that have yet to go to court.
Fyre Festival was promoted as a glitzy, all-inclusive trip to the Bahamas, with private transportation, villa-style lodging, gourmet catering, real treasure hunts, and performances by Blink-182, Migos, and Major Lazer. The event won viral infamy in late April when attendees arrived on the islands to tent shelters, half-built amenities, a skeleton staff, and cheese sandwiches.