Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland sentenced to six years in federal prison
McFarland will serve 6 years for convictions on three counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of lying to investigators.
Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in prison Thursday for multiple counts of fraud, including the failed festival in the Bahamas last year where the 26-year-old lured hundreds of ticket-payers to a supposedly exotic event on a private island with luxury accommodations and performances by bands like Blink-182, only to never materialize, The New York Times reports.
“The remorse I feel is crushing,” McFarland said, dressed in a khaki prison jumpsuit, to a packed courtroom that included his friends and family. “I lived every day with the weight of knowing that I literally destroyed the lives of my friends and family.”
US District Court Judge Naomi Buchwald wasn’t having it though. “It is my conclusion based on all the submissions that the defendant is a serial fraudster and that to date his fraud like a circle has no ending,” she said, noting that she was taking into account McFarland’s long history of deception. “This was not a good idea gone bad, the bad intent was long withstanding,” she said.
McFarland was arrested back in 2017 on charges of providing false financial information to potential investors of Fyre Fest. The music festival was billed as an upscale boutique experience providing luxury villas, catered meals, and performances from artists such as Migos, Major Lazer, and Blink-182, and was promoted by A-listers including the likes of Ja Rule, Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner, but attendees arrived in the Bahamas to find a shoddy, half-planned tent city.
Fyre Festival founder sentenced to 6 years in prison pic.twitter.com/D1AbdvVL6P— mustain arif (@mustainbinarif) October 11, 2018
As NYT reports, earlier in March, McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud after investigators concluded that he had defrauded investors in his company, Fyre Media, as well as a subsidiary that had promoted the music festival, resulting in $24 million in losses. Then in July, McFarland pleaded guilty again to two more counts of fraud related to another company that he ran while out on bail that sold fake tickets to fashion, music and sports events and was said to have cost at least 30 patrons a minimum of about $150,000.
Prosecutors said that the music festival, which was to have taken place in 2017, was the product of an elaborate scheme. The festival’s website identified its location as Fyre Cay, a fictional place that was described as a private island that had once belonged to the drug lord Pablo Escobar.
In a sentencing memorandum, prosecutors called McFarland “the consummate con artist,” adding: “He betrayed and deceived his investors, customers, and employees while he was living the high life at his luxury apartment, traveling to exclusive locales, staying at luxury hotels, being chauffeured in his Maserati, and entertaining himself and his friends at restaurants, bars, and casinos.”
Billy McFarland's sentencing for Fyre and his NYC VIP Access fraud is scheduled for today. Should be pretty lit, if it doesn't get rescheduled for the third time. #fyrefestival pic.twitter.com/Etm4moSTIV— William Needham Finley IV (@WNFIV) October 11, 2018
McFarland’s legal team asked for leniency for their client, citing untreated bipolar disorder, which reportedly prevents him from knowing right from wrong. They also added that McFarland had made a genuine effort to use the money he got from investors on a flawed business plan and had been responsible for charitable acts.
Ultimately, Judge Buchwald did offer some leniency. She had the option to put away McFarland for up to 20 years for convictions on three counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of lying to investigators. Instead, she allowed his different sentences to be served concurrently, effectively sentencing him to six years in federal prison, as well as three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to forfeit more than $26 million.