Remember Billy McFarland, the scam artist behind the spectacular disaster that was Fyre Festival? If he’s to be believed—and even he admits that’s a big “if”—prison and the novel coronavirus pandemic have helped him turn over a new leaf. In fact, he’s even launched a new endeavor from behind bars: crowdfunding money to help inmates call their loved ones amid the pandemic.
McFarland has named his new effort Project-315. In a letter posted to the initiative’s website, he admits that with Fyre Festival, “I know how badly I messed up. I lied, deceived, and ultimately hurt many people in pursuit of what I thought would be successful business ventures. What I did was absolutely despicable, and the responsibility for the damages caused starts and ends with me.”
McFarland wrote that thinking about his past actions sickens him now. “Ultimately, my mistakes may prove to be unforgivable, but as I sit here and take all of this in, I think back to the day I was sentenced,” he wrote. “I promised to dedicate myself to helping those I hurt through the only way I thought appropriate: by living my apology. After nearly 2 years in jail, I believe in this more than ever.”
McFarland acknowledged that since his most recognizable calling card is a disastrous music festival that left several influencers and wealthy people stranded on an island in FEMA tents, people might be inclined to believe that this new effort, too, might not be entirely above board.
“If I were you, I’d think this is a scam, and that I am full of shit,” he wrote in the letter. “I’d also question anything I read that tried to convince me otherwise. So, instead of saying that Project-315 is very real, and the people we’re trying to help are truly suffering and experiencing pain, I’m going to tell you why I’m doing it, and do my best to focus on the results.”
What follows is, essentially, a paragraphs-long brand pitch that attempts to explain why McFarland made “wrong, immoral, and terrible decisions” as he “legitimately tried to execute” the Fyre Festival. McFarland then notes how many inmates across America cannot afford to call their families from prison, which costs $3.15.
And in anticipation of some skepticism when it comes to how the funds will be handled, McFarland also included a note that claims “[a]ll donations, except for fees to receive and distribute funds, go directly to inmates and their families... I am not touching any of the money. I don’t have access to the funds. I’m not getting paid. And I’m not receiving any financial benefit... Weekly accounting will be published, and any questions regarding the accounting records will be answered publicly.”
Speaking with the New York Post about his mission, McFarland said some of his friends will contribute to get the funding started—“so we’ll help the first few thousand families and we’ll go from there.” Last year, McFarland was transferred to the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in Ohio from a cushier minimum-security prison in New York after sneaking in a prohibited recording device.
One of McFarland’s fellow inmates at Elkton, Jebriel, told the Post that McFarland has already helped him speak to his own family. “Billy’s been a godsend—he helps so many people,” Jebriel said. McFarland added $10 to Jebriel’s account last week so that he could speak with his father for the first time in six years, the Post reports. “I wanted to hear his voice,” Jebriel said, “and Billy helped me out.”