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Fyre Festival’s Billy McFarland sentenced to six years in prison

By | Published on Friday 12 October 2018

Billy McFarland

Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland has been sentenced to six years in prison, after pleading guilty to fraud charges relating to the failed event. It’s a pretty good result – he had been facing up to 40 years and was at one point hoping for ten as the result of a plea deal.

The festival, of course, was marketed as being a luxury event in the Bahamas, with ticket prices to match. However, when ticketholders arrived on the island hosting the thing, they found that provisions for even a basic music festival were not in place, while artists had already begun to pull out. Following the event’s collapse, McFarland was sued by ticket-buyers, suppliers and investors, and then accused of criminal conduct.

In March this year, he pleaded guilty to two charges of wire fraud, both of which carried maximum sentences of 20 years. He was found to have defrauded investors in the Fyre Festival to the tune of $24 million.

Then in June he was arrested and charged with two more counts of fraud, having been found to have been selling fake tickets to high profile events while on bail, cheating around 30 people out of at least $150,000. Although he initially denied those new allegations, the following month he entered another guilty plea.

According to the New York Times, McFarland delivered a lengthy statement in court before his sentencing, during which he admitted: “I know that I betrayed the trust of my investors, my customers, my family. This is an extremely bitter reality”.

Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of at least eleven years, saying that McFarland is “the consummate con artist” who “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”.

McFarland’s lawyers said that their client had genuinely attempted to use the money he had raised to put on the failed event. Things had unravelled, they claimed, in part due to undiagnosed bipolar disorder.

Sentencing, judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said – according to Vice News – that this did not excuse his behaviour, adding: “It is my conclusion based on all the submissions that the defendant is a serial fraudster and that to date his fraud, like a circle, has no ending”.

She added that he “has been dishonest most of his life” and was “unique in this court’s memory”, as someone who had committed further crimes while out on bail.

However, the sentence was not as harsh as it might have been. Allowing sentences on each charge to be served concurrently, he was given six years in prison and three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to return over $26 million to those he defrauded, although it is not clear how much, if any, of this sum he actually has.

Meanwhile, McFarland is still fighting many of those aforementioned civil lawsuits.