Billy McFarland, the 26-year-old who delivered one of the most massive blunders the Internet has ever seen—Fyre Festival—was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday. Federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York asked for the maximum sentence, which is between 15 and 20 years, arguing that McFarland is a serial fraudster and “the consummate con artist.”
An Icarus that flew too close the Bahamian sun, McFarland tried to create a luxury music festival for millennials on the island chain, and failed, ultimately defrauding investors out of $24 million. He got investors on board with doctored financial documents, and partnered up with rapper Ja Rule circa 2015 to run an Instagram campaign with the help of models like Kendall Jenner and Emily Ratajkowski late in 2016. (Here is the pitch deck. It’s a wild ride.) Little did ticket buyers and investors know, McFarland hadn’t managed to secure space for the festival until weeks prior.
Bands like Blink-182 dropped out at the last minute because they weren’t “confident that we would have what we need to give you the quality of performances we always give fans.” G.O.O.D. Music artists followed their lead. Festival-goers arrived to find their tickets had bought them pop-up tents in dirt fields and cheese sandwiches instead of gourmet food. It was chaos, and well-documented on social media.
And, despite being arrested in 2017, he didn’t stop there. While out on bail, he ran another scam that sold fake tickets to various exclusive events, defrauding buyers out of about $150,000. All told, McFarland plead guilty to three counts of wire fraud, one count of bank fraud, and one count of making false statements.
The prosecution wrote in “a sentencing memorandum” that McFarland “betrayed and deceived his investors, customers, and employees while 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.”