Facing two counts of wire fraud charges, 26-year-old event organizer William “Billy” McFarland pleaded guilty in court earlier this week. The head of the botched Fyre Festival event last spring admitted that he defrauded his investors, which caused them significant financial losses. Each charge brings with it a maximum of 20 years in prison. McFarland is scheduled to be sentenced on June 21 by a Federal Judge.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the failed event in the Bahamas caused more than $26 million in losses for its investors and ticket vendors. McFarland reportedly raised the money for the event from over 80 investors, who were promised to receive profits after the event was concluded. McFarland is currently facing more than eight lawsuits, with one party seeking more than $100 million in damages.
McFarland was arrested in his Manhattan penthouse apartment a few months after the event’s abrupt cancellation. In court, McFarland admitted to lying to investors about his company’s financial standing and about how much they were earning from talent bookings. As reported by Engadget, the entrepreneur also admitted to tricking one ticket vendor into investing $2 million for priority access to its tickets. Tickets for the event cost as much as $250,000 per person for the entire duration of the Fyre Festival. VIP packages were supposed to include luxury villa accommodations, airfare, and even gourmet meals from celebrity chefs.
The Fyre Festival was a promoted as a high-end music festival that would feature the country’s most popular artists, including Blink-182 and Migos. The event was supposed to be a two-weekend extravaganza that would take place on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma last spring. Several high-profile celebrities, models, and musicians were also supposedly going to be present at the event, which includes McFarland’s business partner, rapper Ja Rule. Social Media Influencers, such as Kendall Jenner, Emily Ratajkwoski, and Bella Hadid, were also promoting the Fyre Festival event on Instagram prior to its launch.
The epic failure of the event instantly went viral on social media as party-goers were met with dismal accommodations and incomplete amenities. Attendees were also reportedly served with packaged sandwiches instead of gourmet meals, with some also reportedly having trouble getting off the island. The event itself was also run by a skeleton crew and there was little to no security personnel within the venue.