Fyre Festival Founder Blames Fraud On Mental Illness

Ian MoranWikimedia Commons

The organizer of disgraced luxury music festival Fyre suffered from untreated mental illness when he defrauded investors, his lawyers have reportedly argued.

Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland was experiencing an untreated bipolar-related disorder, ADHD and “severe alcohol abuse” when he defrauded investors out of $1 million, Vulture reported his lawyers as stating. This cocktail of mental illnesses led McFarland to hold “delusional beliefs of having special and unique talents that will lead to fame and fortune,” his lawyers reportedly argued in court documents obtained by Vulture.

“Nothing in this case speaks to any malicious intent on his part, just a sea of bad judgment, poor decisions, and the type of core instability that can only be explained by mental illness,” McFarland’s attorney, Randall Jackson, was quoted as stating.

Earlier this year, McFarland pleaded guilty to defrauding over 100 investors of $27.4 million. According to Bloomberg, in July McFarland agreed to repay investors and accept a lifetime ban on serving as a corporate officer or director as part of a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

McFarland was also separately charged in June for running an alleged ticket scam worth as much as $100,000. The SEC has also taken legal action against two of McFarland’s companies, Fyre Media Inc. and Magnises Inc.

McFarland’s legal woes began in the wake of his 2017 Fyre Festival. McFarland and rapper Ja Rule teamed up to promote the festival as a luxury getaway on a remote island in the Bahamas. The festival was set to feature stars like Blink-182 and Migos, with VIP ticket packages selling for as much as $12,000.

The festival collapsed at the last minute, and attendees complained of poor conditions and misconduct by organizers.

In a post-mortem of the failed festival, Vanity Fair reported how attendees expecting beach-side villas were instead treated to emergency tents. Festival goers complained of difficulties getting off the island, and a lack of on-the-ground staff to manage the chaos.

While McFarland is set to face sentencing on October 11, his former business partner Ja Rule has argued the festival was “beyond brilliant.”

“It was my idea, my vision to do this. And I’m no way, shape or form ashamed of my vision of what it was to do this,” he said during an interview with Revolt.

He admitted, however, that the festival wasn’t “done properly.”

” I should’ve been more on top of things. I should’ve not trusted people with certain things,” he said.

“That part of it, I take all responsibility,” he added.