Anyone who keeps up with the latest upcoming festivals will be familiar with the Fyre festival disaster of April last year. Promoted as “the culture experience of the decade” by its founder Billy McFarland, since labelled “the consummate con artist”, attendees were sorely disappointed (to say the least) when they turned up to the Bahamas site and were met by flailing tents, a lack of drinking water and (not so gourmet) cheese sandwiches. Not quite the luxury experience they’d been promised.
High profile celebrities including Bella Hadid, Hailey Badwin and Emily Ratajkowski were featured in the festival’s promo video, which showed them partying on beautiful white sand beaches and selling the festival as the ultimate VIP experience. Check it out here, (jaw drop at the ready).
Billy McFarland pleaded guilty in March to two counts of wire fraud related to the festival, but then in July admitted two more counts of fraud relating to another ticket-selling scam that he had set up while on bail. Punters had paid between $1,200 and $100,000 (£900 and £75,000) for tickets and investors were defrauded out of $24 million but both parties can now see justice being done as McFarland faces a $26 million forfeiture order and a six-year prison sentence.
Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald presided over the case in the U.S. Southern District Court and told the Manhattan court:
“The defendant is a serial fraudster and to date his fraud, like a circle, has no end. Mr McFarland has been dishonest most of his life.”
McFarland expressed his sincerest apologies in court, stating:
“The remorse I feel is crushing. I lived every day with the weight of knowing that I literally destroyed the lives of my friends and family.”
Despite McFarland’s legal team pleading that he had been diagnosed with untreated bipolar disorder earlier this month and for leniency to be granted accordingly, the judge was unconvinced and refused to reduce his sentence, arguing that even if McFarland is bipolar, his behaviour would not be excused.
Whilst it may appear that rapper and co-founder Ja Rule has emerged unscathed from the biggest festival sham (perhaps ever), he does remain named in a class-action civil suit, along with Fyre organizers and investors.