Fyre Festival Promoter Accused of New Scam After Guilty Plea
(Bloomberg) -- When he pleaded guilty in March to duping investors who backed him on an ill-fated, luxury music festival in the Bahamas, Billy McFarland said he “deeply regrets” what he did, and apologized to all those he “let down.”
Meantime, just nine days before he’s set to be sentenced, he may have dug himself in deeper.
On Tuesday, federal prosecutors in New York wheeled out a set of new criminal charges against McFarland, accusing him of scamming ticket buyers, targeting a new set of fraudulent pitches to people who’d already been burned by his disastrous Fyre Festival.
McFarland charged more than $100,000 to at least 15 customers and either failed to provide any tickets or didn’t provide the tickets he had promised, prosecutors said. He’s also accused of concealing his ownership of the ticket company, NYC VIP Access, using an email with an employee’s name to hide his affiliation and directing that employee to sign contracts.
McFarland claimed to have tickets to fashion events such as the Met Gala, music festivals, including Coachella, and premier sporting events like the Super Bowl, according to prosecutors.
The 26-year-old was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. He faces as long as 20 years in prison on each charge if convicted. He surrendered to the FBI Tuesday and was later ordered by a magistrate judge in Manhattan to be held in custody at least until June 26 for a district judge to decide whether to revoke his bail.
McFarland’s lawyer, Randall Jackson, said in a hearing Tuesday his client isn’t guilty of the new charges. Jackson claimed the employee, who isn’t named, and the employee’s girlfriend were caught in illegal activities and blamed McFarland.
McFarland became instantly notorious when patrons paying as much as $12,000 for a "life-changing" Caribbean music festival deplaned on the island of Great Exuma in April 2017, only to find port-a-potties instead of bathrooms and tents instead of private villas.
The festival, which McFarland organized with rap star Ja Rule, was to feature bands including Blink-182 and take place over two weekends. It collapsed at the last minute, with people stuck on the island left to chronicle the lack of preparations on social media and to find their own way home.
McFarland was charged with defrauding investors in Fyre Media Inc., a company he set up to build an application that allowed organizers to book talent for concerts and other events, of more than $24 million, and for ripping off a ticket broker that paid $2 million for a block of advance tickets for future Fyre festivals.
He struck a deal with prosecutors under which they agreed not to seek a sentence of more than 10 years in exchange for his guilty plea. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristy Greenberg, arguing that McFarland should be held in custody, said he had told several people that if he’s sentenced to three years or more, he’ll run. He’s scheduled to be sentenced June 21.
The Fyre case is U.S. v. McFarland, 17-cr-00600, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.