Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland has pleaded guilty to misleading investors and could face up to 40 years in jail after an FBI investigation into the festival, per the AP.
McFarland appeared in federal court in Manhattan yesterday, after his arrest last July, for his arraignment after he was charged with two counts of wire fraud. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Last year’s inaugural and now-infamous Fyre Festival was billed as a luxury music festival experience in the Bahamas for elite millennials, though concert-goers soon found it was nothing like what they were promised in the festival’s flashy, supermodel-filled promotional video.
Billed artists like Migos, Skepta and Blink-182 began to pull out, luxury tents turned out to be disaster relief tents, the gourmet food turned out to be cheese sandwiches in styrofoam boxes and people were stranded in the Bahamas for hours with little food or water.
McFarland said he accepted total responsibility for the disastrous festival and he acknowledged that he took part in “fraudulent behavior.” U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman said, “As he admitted today, William McFarland tendered fake documents to induce investors and a ticket vendor to put more than $26 million into his company and the disastrous Fyre Festival. He now awaits sentencing for his admitted swindle.”
McFarland presented fake documents that claimed millions in income earned from talent bookings, though the company only earned $57,443. McFarland also claimed the festival booked 2,500 acts in one month, when they only booked 60 for the whole year. The U.S. attorney’s office said these documents resulted in losses totaling more than $24 million.
McFarland also provided false income statements to a ticket vendor in order to get $2 million for advance tickets to future festivals. Then, the vendor entered into an agreement with McFarland and Fyre, which guaranteed $2.4 million from the sales of those pre-purchased tickets.
Last summer, it was also reported that McFarland, alongside organizer Ja Rule, are currently being sued for $100 million as part of a suit filed by celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos. The suit seeks “$5 million in damages for alleged fraud, breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith, and negligent misrepresentation.” It also claims that the “festival’s lack of adequate food, water, shelter, and medical care created a dangerous and panicked situation among attendees.”
MacFarland’s previous shady history as an entrepreneur has been well documented. McFarland founded a company in 2013 called Magnises which also made lavish promises and targeted status-seeking millennials. According to Business Insider, it turns out that many of Magnises’ promised benefits never materialized or were far from what was advertised.
McFarland’s sentencing is scheduled for June 21.