Fyre Fest’s Billy McFarland Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud
Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland pleaded guilty to wire fraud in federal court on Tuesday, CNBC reports. McFarland faced two counts of wire fraud stemming from his efforts to secure financial backing for his company Fyre Media: one for misrepresenting the company’s financial health to investors, and a second for misrepresenting it to a ticketing vendor. Prosecutors accused McFarland of falsifying documents such as emails and financial records in order to exaggerate Fyre’s value.
In court, McFarland reportedly acknowledged engaging in “fraudulent behavior,” apologizing to employees, investors, and family, but suggested he’d acted in good faith and had simply “grossly underestimated” the scale of the undertaking.
Heavily promoted on social media with images of models and jet skis, Fyre Fest promised promised a luxe Bahamas resort experience with “villa” accommodations, gourmet catering, and live music by acts like Migos and Blink-182 (for whom McFarland apparently spent upwards of $150,000 on a yacht). The festival achieved internet infamy last April when its first attendees arrived to rain-soaked grounds, canceled performances, emergency tent shelters, and a scarcity of toilets.
After Fyre reportedly came under FBI investigation, McFarland was arrested last June, and a federal judge ordered Fyre Media into bankruptcy last September. According to Bloomberg, McFarland reached plea deal likely to result in eight to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $300,000, and restitution payments. His sentencing is scheduled for June 21.
McFarland’s business partner in the Fyre Fest venture, rapper Ja Rule, was not charged in the federal case. Fyre Media, McFarland, and Ja Rule are all named in a number of civil cases that have not yet come before a court.