Fyre Festival Organizer Billy McFarland Sentenced To 6 Years In Prison

Man in suit, striking gavel. Lawyer concept.
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Billy McFarland, the organizer that put together the infamous disaster that was the Fyre Festival, was given a six-year prison sentence by a federal judge in Manhattan on Thursday, according to The New York Times. The festival was billed as a music festival in the Bahamas — but was actually a scam that led to defrauded investors and hundreds of festivalgoers being stranded on an island.

The 26-year-old McFarland was convicted of running a sham ticket-selling business. This description arguably understates the level of failure achieved by the festival, which saw heavy promotion from social media influencers across Instagram as a top-tier festival before being exposed as anything but. Attendees expected luxury accommodation and a concert headlined by Blink-182, but actually just walked around unfinished concert sites waiting for performances that never happened on the island of Great Exuma.

McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud in March after an investigation uncovered his plan to defraud investors in Fyre Media — as well as the subsidiary that was in charge of promoting the event, causing $24 million in lost revenue.

McFarland pleaded guilty to two more counts of wire fraud in July related to a company that he ran which sold fake tickets for fashion, music and sports events. The result of this fraud cost at least 30 victims a minimum of about $150,000, according to reports.

The prosecution said that the 2017 festival was nothing more than an intricate scheme. The website for the festival advertises that it was taking place on the fictional island of Fyre Cay, which was referred to as a private island that once belonged to Pablo Escobar.

McFarland only secured land on Great Exuma weeks before the festival was scheduled to take place and quickly hired workers who rushed to put the festival together. Everything fell apart when people began to arrive and the festival was quickly cancelled. One of his celebrity partners in Fyre Media, Ja Rule, took to social media to announce that he was heartbroken by the festival’s failure.

While out on bail in late 2017, McFarland set up NYC VIP Access, a company that specialized in selling fake tickets to events such as the Met Gala, Coachella, Burning Man and the Super Bowl.

As he was sentenced, prosecutors called McFarland “the consummate con artist,” saying, “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.”