Fyre Festival Organizer Gets 6 Years in Federal Prison

Billy McFarland was sentenced to six years in federal prison last Thursday for organizing one of the biggest shams in music festival history.

Courtesy: Consequence of Sound

With its marketing campaign that spread like wildfire through social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, the Fyre Festival had celebrity endorsements from Bella Hadid, Alessandra Ambrosio and other well-known models. Promised luxury resorts, gourmet food, and a lineup of great artists such as Blink-182, Lil Yachty, Migos, and Major Lazer, guests were quick to discover that their vacation quickly turned into a nightmare. Excited music festival attendees spent thousands of dollars for this seemingly amazing experience and were ultimately met with half-built tents, cheese sandwiches and no concert. Flights were delayed and at times non-existent. Some attendees were left starving for extended periods of time.

In March, McFarland pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud after it was proven that he defrauded his investors on his company, Fyre Media. McFarland would often misrepresent the income of Fyre Media Inc. to investors, stating his company made millions when it made less than $60,000. He also claimed that the Fyre Festival would have payout rights in case any artist would cancel when that insurance policy never existed.

McFarland also plead guilty to two more counts of fraud in July when it was discovered that he sold faulty tickets to over 30 people totaling $150,000 for music concerts, sporting events and fashion shows.

Surrounded by his friends and family during court, he states, "I made decisions that were a slap in the face to everything my family tried to teach me.” He also mentioned that "fear of letting everybody down" drove him to make mistakes.

Prosecutors accused McFarland of lacking remorse, stating that as he was deceiving his investors “…he was living the high life at his luxury apartment, traveling to exclusive locales, staying at luxury hotels, being chauffeured in his Maserati, and entertaining himself and his friends at restaurants, bars, and casinos.” John Nemeth, who lost his life savings of $180,000 by investing it with McFarland, called McFarland “an extremely skilled and convincing liar,” and stated that he deserved “a long prison term.” Prosecutors were initially pursuing a 15-year sentence however it was reduced due to McFarland’s attorney asking for leniency claiming McFarland had some mental health issues. The Washington Post writes, “U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald told McFarland that “bipolar does not excuse behavior.” She sentenced him to six years behind bars and ordered him to pay $26,182,386. Buchwald could have sentenced McFarland to up to 20 years in prison.

Whether he does or doesn’t feel remorse, a representative of his states that "[they’re] grateful that the Court rejected the Draconian sentence requested by the government and imposed a sentence that will allow Billy to spend the second part of his life meaningfully giving back to his community."

If you’re interested in seeing actual photos from the festival itself, be sure to check here.