Guy Behind Fyre Festival Fiasco Learns His Fate

Billy McFarland gets 6 years in prison
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 11, 2018 4:14 PM CDT
Billy McFarland   (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

(Newser) – Declaring him to be a "serial fraudster" who has been "dishonest most of his life," a federal judge in Manhattan on Thursday sentenced the organizer of 2017's Fyre Festival to six years in prison, the New York Times reports. For his part, 26-year-old Billy McFarland acknowledged before he was sentenced that he "betrayed the trust" of just about everyone around him, adding, "This is an extremely bitter reality." In addition to the prison time, McFarland, who in March pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud, is on the hook for some $26 million in restitution, per Vice, which notes that it is unknown how much of that money, bilked from investors, he still has. The Fyre Festival, which took place in April 2017, was billed as an "unprecedented VIP event" on an island in the Bahamas that would feature "first-class culinary experiences and a luxury atmosphere," along with popular music acts.

But upon arrival attendees, who in extreme cases paid nearly $13,000, found a scene reminiscent of a disorganized refugee camp with feral dogs, tents, and cheese sandwiches standing in for the first-class cuisine. McFarland also ran a fraudulent ticket-selling service—"run-of-the-mill compared to the Fyre Festival," says the Times—that cost at least 30 victims some $150,000. McFarland started this scheme while he was on pretrial release in connection to the Fyre fiasco, NPR reports. Claiming their client suffers from untreated mental illness and had done some charitable acts, McFarland's attorney's sought a sentence of restitution, community service, and house arrest or minimal jail time. Prosecutors lobbied for 11 to 14 years in prison. One investor, who says he lost his life savings to McFarland's schemes, told the court Thursday that McFarland, a "skilled and convincing liar," deserves "a long prison term."

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