The founder of the doomed Fyre Festival could spend years in prison after pleading guilty to defrauding investors out of millions of dollars

Billy McFarland

  • Fyre Festival organizer Billy McFarland pleaded guilty to wire-fraud charges on Tuesday. 
  • The 26-year-old was arrested in June 2017 after being accused of misleading investors who poured more than $1 million into Fyre Media.
  • McFarland admitted he defrauded 80 investors and a ticket broker out of more than $26 million.

Billy McFarland, the 26-year-old creator of the disastrous Fyre Festival that left hundreds of participants stranded in the Bahamas, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud on Tuesday. 

Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, but McFarland would likely face eight to 10 years in prison plus a fine of up to $300,000 under the plea deal, according to Bloomberg.

McFarland admitted to defrauding a ticket broker and 80 investors in Fyre Media, a company that he founded and that was responsible for putting on the Fyre Festival. Prosecutors have alleged that McFarland used falsified documents to trick investors in a $26 million scheme.

McFarland also pleaded guilty to duping an unnamed ticket broker into paying $2 million for a block of advance tickets for future Fyre Festivals.

“My intention and effort was directed to organizing a legitimate festival,” he said in court on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg. “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.”

He told the judge that he “grossly underestimated the resources that would be necessary to hold an event of this magnitude.”

McFarland was arrested in June 2017 and accused of misleading investors who poured more than $1 million into Fyre Media.

A statement released by Acting Manhattan US Attorney Joon Kim at the time of McFarland’s arrest said McFarland told investors that Fyre Media earned millions of dollars from thousands of artist bookings in 2016 and 2017, but in reality the company had brought in less than $60,000 from about 60 artist bookings.

Fyre Festival was pitched as a luxury music and arts event with tickets starting at $1,200. Attendees were expecting a VIP experience when they set off to Great Exuma in the Bahamas, but the reality they faced was very different: delayed flights, half-built huts to sleep in, and cold cheese sandwiches to eat. Partiers then found themselves stranded on the island with little food or water, and, at times, there was no electricity.

fyre 6

McFarland is currently free on bail and living with his parents in New Jersey. 

SEE ALSO: Here’s what Fyre Festival attendees thought they were getting when they bought $1,200 tickets — and here’s the nightmarish reality

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