Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland arrested for new ticket scam a year after he duped investors out of $26 million
According to prosecutors, the disgraced promoter started the new ticket selling racket at the end of last year while he was out on bail
The man behind the Fyre Festival that flopped big time and the one who confessed to scamming attendees and investors alike, has been arrested again for a new scam that he is allegedly been running since late last year. 26-year-old Billy McFarland had ripped off millions of dollars when he was organizing the Fyre Festival. He was rearrested on June 13.
McFarland was charged with illegally earning $100,000 by selling false tickets for fashion, music, and sports events through the firm he owns, NYC VIP Access. According to prosecutors, the disgraced promoter had started the new ticket selling racket at the end of last year. This happened shortly after he was arrested in June 2017 for the Fyre Festival debacle. He has allegedly gone after the same festival attendees that he had scammed in the failed festival incident.
Fyre Festival promoter charged with selling fraudulent tickets to concerts and sports events while awaiting sentencing for his role in the 2017 Bahamas event that ended in chaos https://t.co/2C1tmZdlCv pic.twitter.com/t13SKhgdik— Bloomberg (@business) June 12, 2018
Prosecutors told the jury that more than 15 festival attendees from before had been billed more than $100,000 as of end of last year for fake tickets that McFarland and his employees sold for the 2018 Met Gala, Burning Man 2018, Coachella 2018, the 2018 Grammy Awards, Super Bowl LII, and a Cleveland Cavaliers game that included dinner with Lebron James and his team.
Kristy Greenberg, the prosecutor, told the judge in court this week: "Mr McFarland is a serial fraudster plain and simple."
All the attendees had to pay between $1,200 and $250,000 to go for the Fyre Festival and the money was flowing in because it became the talk of the town as the festival that was catering to rich millenials, influencers from Instagram, and celebrities. Unfortunately, no amount of wealth in the world could've prepared the attendees for what they experienced.
Shocking photos were shared from the location of the festival that showed the pitiful condition of the campsite which many on the internet immediately compared to a refugee camp.
The tents were not the only bad thing. There were wild dogs, garbage, only few portable toilets, and not enough fresh water at the venue. In spite of all the festival goers paying thousands of dollars to attend the festival, they were stranded on the island venue for a few days. When the furious attendees demanded that they get their money back, the organizers only offered excuses.
McFarland was arrested in June 2017. At the trial that took place in March 2018, he pleaded guilty of fraud for the Fyre Festival. Investigators have now said that the promoter got into another scam while he was on his pretrial release. He got eager crowds to buy fake tickets to exclusive events that included the 2018 Met Gala. Prosecutors have said that these tickets never existed.
According to court documents, McFarland even had a spreadsheet which had a list of all the wealthy Fyre Festival attendees and these are the people he targeted with his latest scam. The 26-year-old, obviously, denies having anything to do with the new scam.
The man had pleaded guilty before to wire fraud charges that were linked to the festival in March. The deal that was agreed upon would be that McFarland served 8-10 years behind bars but then he requested the judge to show leniency and not have him incarcerated. The plea is connected to the failed 2017 festival that took place in Exuma, an island in the Bahamas. The entire festival ended up costing more than 80 investors a grand total of $26 million
Rapper Ja Rule was a co-founder for the festival and it was organized to promote the digital app Fyre. The app that was built would have allowed any individuals who organize commercial events like concerts to bid for the artists and celebrities they want to book for those events. McFarland then promoted the glamorous festival and promised the attendees shows by Blink-182 and Migos.
Models Emily Ratajkowski and Bella Hadid were paid to promote the festival on Instagram. Unlike the promo video that was made for the festival, however, what was hailed as an uber-luxurious event was anything but that. Models like Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkowski, Bella Hadid, and many other models and celebrities were promoting the event as "the cultural experience of the decade".
The so-called "upscale" accomodations that were supposed to be provided for the attendees all consisted of tents that were only half built. The food was basically sad looking cheese sandwiches and rat droppings could be found on the ground everywhere.
The accusing US attorney for the Southern District of New York, Joon H Kim, and the assistant director-in-charge of the New York Firld Office of the FBI, Wiliam F Sweeney Jr., realeased a statement together after McFarland was areested in June last year.
The statement read: "William McFarland promised a 'life changing' music festival but in actuality delivered a disaster. McFarland allegedly presented fake documents to induce investors to put over a million dollars into his company and the fiasco called the Fyre Festival. Thanks to the investigative efforts of the FBI, McFarland will now have to answer for his crimes."
McFarland will be in court later on in 2018 to receive his sentence for the Fyre Festival fraud case.
On June 12, Randall Jackson, McFarland's lawyer, said that his client should be allowed to go on bail till the time of his next hearing because he had allegedly proven to everyone that he would not flee. He surrendered the moment he found out that FBI agents were on the lookout for him. Jackson also claimed that one of McFarland's own employees, who is currently cooperating with prosecutors, is the one who is framing his client.
Jackson told US Magistrate Judge Gabriel W Gorenstein in Manhattan: "We vigorously contest what is in this complaint."
Gorenstein replied by saying if McFarland is let go on bail for the festival case, he will be facing a $1 million bail for the new charges that were levelled against him. He had noted in court that the promoter would have to face another two years or more in prison if he is convicted on any of the new charges. He ordered that McFarland be detained after the prosecutors said that they have crucial evidence that te promoter may have been involved in bank fraud and identity theft while he was on bail the last time.
Kristy Greenberg, the Assistant US Attorney, said that McFarland was a financial threat to the community and that he had used a client list from the Fyre Festival to be able to convince the already distraught attendees of the failed event to buy tickets for a new fraud that involved fake tickets for music, fashion, and sports events. McFarland never had access to any of these tickets and there is no way for him to get them even if he wanted to.
Greenberg said that McFarland was living a glamorous lifestyle with stays in luxury hotels and dining in expensive restaurants for many months. She also claimed that he told his emloyees he would run away if he was sentenced to more than three years in prison next week. She said: "The weight of the evidence here is quite strong. He targeted the same victims who tried to attend his Fyre Festival."
Jackson told the court that McFarland has been quite cooperative with the government agencies and that he was ready to answer any questions they may ask him.