Billy McFarland, promoter of the “life-changing” Fyre Festival in the Bahamas which turned out to be a fiasco, pleaded guilty to two accounts of wire fraud, agreeing to serve up to a decade in prison.
McFarland, 26, admitted in a Manhattan federal court that he had lied to 80 investors by falsifying documents to secure $26 million of their money to put in the 2017 Fyre Festival.
“I deeply regret my actions, and I apologize to my investors, team, family, and supporters who I let down,” McFarland said.
He said that he originally planned a “legitimate festival” when he started Fyre Festival as a spinoff of a digital application he launched in 2016 to help concert promoters and private individuals directly book musicians for concerts.
The two counts of wire fraud carry a maximum of 20 years in prison, however, under the plea agreement, McFarland will likely face a sentence of eight to 10 years and a fine of up to $300 thousand.
The festival was promoted as the “cultural experience of the decade”, a two-weekend event on the island of Great Exhuma in the Bahamas. It was here where people could see famous artists performing, live in luxury accommodations, and eat gourmet food. The event was promoted on social media by Kylie Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and other models and celebrities. Fyre Festival ticket packages ranged from $1.200 to over $100 thousand.
Yet the picture shifted to a weak shadow of what was promised, with most big-name acts canceling ahead of the festival, and customers having to lodge in leaky tents and be served with cheese sandwiches. Customers were furious and quickly blasted the event on social media with the hashtag #fyrefraud.
McFarland also pleaded guilty to giving a ticket vendor false information about Fyre Media’s financial status last April to persuade them into buying $2 million worth of tickets to Fyre festivals that would be staged in the coming years.
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