Promoter of failed Fyre Festival pleads guilty to fraud
Billy McFarland, 26, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court.
The promoter of the failed Fyre Festival in the Bahamas – once billed as the “cultural experience of the decade” – has pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges.
Billy McFarland, 26, entered the plea in Manhattan federal court in a deal with prosecutors that suggested he serve between eight and 10 years in prison.
“I deeply regret my actions, and I apologise to my investors, team, family and supporters who I let down,” McFarland told US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan.
He said he planned to organise “a legitimate festival” when he planned the Fyre Festival as an outgrowth of a digital application he launched in May 2016 to help concert promoters and private individuals directly book musicians for concerts.
“I grossly underestimated the resources that would be necessary to hold an event of this magnitude,” he said. “In an attempt to raise what I thought were needed funds, I lied to investors about various aspects of Fyre Media and my personal finances. Those lies included false documents and information.”
The festival was promoted as “the cultural experience of the decade”, an ultra-luxurious event on the Bahamian island of Exuma over two weekends last April and May. It was promoted on social media by Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and other models and celebrities coaxing people into buying ticket packages ranging from 1,200 US dollars (£863) to over 100,000 US dollars (£72,000).
Customers hoping to see Blink-182 and the hip hop act Migos arrived to learn music acts were cancelled. Their luxury accommodations and gourmet food consisted of leaky white tents and cheese sandwiches. Customers lashed out on social media with the hashtag #fyrefraud.
A lawsuit filed in Los Angeles called the festival “nothing more than a get-rich-quick scam”. It said the festival’s inadequate food, water, shelter and medical care left attendees stranded on a remote island in a “dangerous and panicked situation”.
As part of his plea, McFarland also admitted raising money for the festival by giving a ticket vendor false information about Fyre Media’s financial condition last April to induce the vendor to pay two million US dollars (£1.4 million) for a block of advance tickets.
McFarland and his lawyer, Randall Jackson, declined comment outside court.
McFarland has been freed on bail since his June arrest. Sentencing was set for June 21.