Billy McFarland, promoter of the ill-fated Fyre Festival that took place in the Bahamas last year, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges and agreed to serve up to a decade in prison for lying to investors and sending false documents.
McFarland entered the plea in a Manhattan federal court in a deal with prosecutors that suggested he serve between eight and 10 years in prison.
Festival-goers paid between $1,500 and $12,000 to attend Fyre Festival on the Bahamas island of Exuma at the end of April, with the promise of great music, yacht parties, luxury accommodation and gourmet food.
However, the event was a disaster with headline act Blink 182 pulling out, and patrons who had no way of leaving the island claiming that they were going without basic essentials such as secure accommodation, food, drink and electricity.
The event was postponed after organisers admitted “we didn’t think security could keep up”.
McFarland at an event in 2014 (Image: Ian Moran)
“I deeply regret my actions, and I apologise to my investors, team, family and supporters who I let down,” said McFarland told US District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in Manhattan.
He said he planned to organise “a legitimate festival” when he planned the Fyre Festival as an outgrowth of a digital application he launched in May 2016 to help concert promoters and private individuals directly book musicians for concerts.
“I grossly underestimated the resources that would be necessary to hold an event of this magnitude,” he said.
“In an attempt to raise what I thought were needed funds, I lied to investors about various aspects of Fyre Media and my personal finances. Those lies included false documents and information.”
As part of his plea, McFarland also admitted raising money for the festival by giving a ticket vendor false information about Fyre Media’s financial condition last April to induce the vendor to pay $2m for a block of advance tickets.
Image: A. Duarte