Billy McFarland, promoter of the much-derided Fyre Festival in the Bahamas has entered a guilty plea to charges of wire fraud. McFarland will serve up to 10 years in prison after he lied to investors about an event that cause them to lose tens of millions of dollars.
McFarland may not do the full decade, and he is expected to ask the court for leniency, given his age and relatively lack of experience. He expressed remorse during his appearance in court to enter his plea: “I deeply regret my actions, and I apologize to my investors, team, family and supporters who I let down… I grossly underestimated the resources that would be necessary to hold an event of this magnitude (and) In an attempt to raise what I thought were needed funds, I lied to investors about various aspects of Fyre Media and my personal finances. Those lies included false documents and information.”
McFarland says his initial plan was only to promote a great music festival on the Bahamian island of Exuma that, he said, would be the “cultural experience of the decade…” The event was promoted online by Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and Emily Ratajkowski, as well as other celebrities with similarly massive social media followings.
Ticket packages retailed from $1,200 to over $100,000, and many were promised an ultra-luxury experience on the island. When they arrived, festival goers were greeted with the news that two top acts, Blink-182 and Migos, were not coming. Promised luxurious appointments and top-shelf food, attendees were greeted by cheese sandwiches and leaky tents.
Jilted and enraged concert attendees lashed out on social media, with many calling the entire event an outright fraud. The subsequent lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles, described the festival as “nothing more than a get-rich-quick scam.”
Paperwork Doesn’t Lie:
Prosecutors said McFarland used false documentation to scam vendors and others: “William McFarland tendered fake documents to induce investors and a ticket vendor to (invest millions) into his company and the disastrous Fyre Festival…”
According to multiple media outlets, McFarland took 80 investors for a total of $26 million. He forfeited those funds as part of his plea agreement.
No matter how much time McFarland spends in prison, and no matter what his initial intentions were, he will have a long way to go to repair his reputation once he finishes his sentence. He could come back. Many people who later went on to succeed in business learned a very harsh lesson in their 20s, and there’s no reason why McFarland may not end up among them. What he learns and what he does with that information is, essentially, up to him at this point.