Fyre Fest Founder Pleads Guilty, Now Faces Up to 115 Years in Prison
On Thursday, Billy McFarland pleaded guilty to additional charges that could add up to 75 years on his existing charges.
Billy McFarland, infamous for founding and operating the disastrous Fyre Festival in the Bahamas last year, now faces up to 75 years worth of additional charges for scamming people into buying tickets to high-profile events that didn’t really exist.
“McFarland’s fraudulent schemes cost real people real money, and now he faces real time in federal prison for his crimes,” wrote U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman in a Justice Department release.
On Thursday, McFarland pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of making false statements while he was on pretrial release awaiting a sentencing hearing on Fyre Fest-related charges. He also forfeited an additional $151,206.80 with today’s plea.
Even while facing a maximum sentence of 20 years and having already given up $26,040,099.48 in the aftermath of his failed music festival, McFarland wasn’t quite done scamming. He allegedly worked up another scheme supposedly peddling tickets to exclusive events like the Met Gala, the Super Bowl, Coachella, and the Grammys through a company called NYC VIP Access. He sold the too-good-to-be-true tickets to customers of Fyre Fest and his credit-card company Magnises.
“These customers later learned that the tickets didn’t exist, and that this was just another fraud in McFarland’s disturbing pattern of deception,” Berman stated.
McFarland also allegedly went to great lengths to make it look like he wasn’t involved in the ticket operation: according to documents, he used the email account of one of his employees and another that was completely made up to correspond with customers online. Prosecutors allege he also directed an employee of his to speak with customers about their ticket orders, and sign contracts selling the imaginary tickets that the company had.
Some customers never got their tickets; others did not get their tickets as advertised.
All in all, McFarland ended up scamming about 30 people, and made about $150,000 in fraudulent ticket sales. He also attempted to pay one of his employees with a $25,000 forged check from another one of his employees’ bank account.
In March, McFarland also plead guilty to two counts of wire fraud, which hold a maximum sentence of 20 years per count for defrauding investors while attempting to get Fyre Fest off the ground.
In total, he now faces a total of 115 years in prison if given the maximum sentence per charge.