Fyre Festival Promoter Billy McFarland Should Get 15 Years, U.S. Says

(Bloomberg) -- Billy McFarland should get at least 15 years in prison for defrauding investors in the disastrous 2017 Fyre Festival, and for running a separate sham ticket business while out on bail, prosecutors said.

The festival, set on an island in the Bahamas, began with promises of music and luxury. Instead, concert-goers found badly constructed tents, cold cheese sandwiches and a lack of sufficient bathrooms on arrival. Some paid as much as $12,000 to attend.

McFarland admitted in a March guilty plea that he lied to investors who bought a $1.2 million stake in his company, Fyre Media Inc. Authorities said he provided false documents which inflated Fyre’s revenue and altered a stock ownership statement to make it appear that shares he owned that were worth less than $1,500 were valued at $2.5 million, allowing him to personally guarantee an investment, prosecutors said.

Organizers borrowed as much as $7 million in a last-minute bid to fund the doomed festival.

Then in July, he admitted guilt to new charges that he ran a fraudulent ticket business while on bail. Prosecutors said he took in more than $100,000 from at least 15 people for tickets to such events as the Met Gala, Coachella and the Super Bowl. He told a judge that he "did not in fact have those tickets in hand."

"McFarland’s blatant and deliberate multiple fraud schemes from which he personally profited and caused substantial harm to many victims over the course of several years" justifies a sentence between 15 and almost 20 years in prison, prosecutors said in a court filing Wednesday.

McFarland is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 11 in Manhattan federal court.

McFarland originally asked for a non-jail sentence of home confinement, probation and community service, then withdrew the request last month after pleading guilty to the second set of charges. In a letter last month, his lawyers told U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald that he suffers from bipolar disorder and requested a prison sentence "far beneath" the one requested by prosecutors.

"The court can fashion a sentence that will appropriately punish the defendant without effectively throwing his life away," they said in the letter. "We are humbly pleading with the court to consider such a sentence."

The case is U.S. v. McFarland, 17-cr-00600, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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