The horror show that was Fyre Festival continues to live on thanks to its founder Billy McFarland. The Fyre Festival, as we all now know wasn’t the luxury music festival that he promised. Instead, festival goers were met with wet disaster relief tends and sad sandwiches.
McFarland was charged with defrauding investors and a ticket broker that put millions into his Fyre Media Company. He used falsified documents, which included forged bank statements and the now infamous pitch deck. In March he accepted a plea deal, which included a guilty plea and a fine of $26 million dollars.
His sentencing was this month, with him facing up to 40 years in jail. How he will pay this fine still remains a mystery, as Fyre Media filed for bankruptcy months ago, he is facing other lawsuits from festivalgoers, and he even claimed he could afford a private lawyer during the trial. However, McFarland has landed himself in hot water again.
McFarland has since been charged with new criminal counts of money laundering and wire fraud. An investigation linked him to NYC VIP Access, a ticketing company that earned more than $100,000 in ticket sales for hard to come by events, such as Burning Man and the 2018 Met Gala. This wasn’t a legitimate business though. Prosecutors allege it was another scam operated by McFarland as he awaited sentencing.
Assistant US Attorney, Kristy Greenberg, alleges that Billy McFarland tried to conceal his ownership of NYC VIP Access. He apparently moved earnings from the scam to accounts controlled by employees. As McFarland is currently facing a large fine from the Fyre Festival plea deal that he claims now to have funds to pay for, this is particularly damning.
According to the indictment, McFarland reportedly began selling tickets through NYC VIP Access around late 2017, which was months after he had been arrested for the Fyre Festival case. McFarland then used the customer database from Fyre Festival, and his defunct credit card company Magnises, to market tickets for exclusive events. He had his assistant create a spreadsheet for Fyre Festival attendees (tickets to this event reached into the thousands) according to their salaries.
Authorities say he never actually owned any of the tickets he was selling though. McFarland used fake names, email addresses that belonged to employees, and multiple bank accounts to try to hide his crimes. At one point he even created a holding company called BMZ Projects (his initials), to conceal his involvement.
The indictment says that three other people unknowingly assisted McFarland with the fraud, using a script written by him to cold call clients and sell tickets. These tickets were for events such as Burning Man, the Grammy’s, the 2018 Met Gala, the Super Bowl, Coachella, and even a Cleveland Cavaliers game that included a dinner with LeBron James.
In total, McFarland allegedly earned $100,000 from fraudulent ticket sales, with at least 15 customer victims. He generated $36,000 from selling fake tickets to the Met Gala alone. One victim reportedly spent $700 on two Grammy tickets, even flying from Florida to New York for the event, only to be rejected once they arrived.
McFarland would use employee’s emailed accounts to communicate with customers, even meeting with them at public places. Authorities were able to tie him to the scam through an IP address belonging to his father, Steven McFarland, his at house in New Jersey. At one point, he even asked an employee to secretly use their bank account to cover his high-end living expenses, ultimately funneling $138,000 through the account and racking up large charges such as a $7,000 hotel room, and buying domain names like bzmprojects.com.
McFarland was arrested June 12th and ordered to be jailed until June 26th. Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, who is overseeing the Fyre Festival case, now has to decide whether to revoke his bail as he awaits sentencing or release him under stricter house arrest. McFarland was originally supposed to be sentenced for the Fyre Festival case on June 21st, but the US Attorney’s office has now asked for an extension. Before these new charges were added, McFarland’s attorney was asking the judge for six months of house attest while prosecutors wanted a 4-8 year jail sentence.
These new fraud charges paint a different picture. When McFarland accepted his plea deal, he painted himself as a young kid that got swept up in a grand idea. “My intention and effort were directed to organizing a legitimate festival,” McFarland reportedly stated. “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.” These new charges show that Fyre Festival was not a one-off thing. Billy McFarland now faces more jail time and will likely receive a harsher sentence in light of these new allegations.
Exuma was another client defrauded in the Fyre Festival fiasco, with locals losing thousands of dollars in unpaid fees and the local government losing out on import taxes. Although Exuma’s tourist economy is still booming, it’s sad to know that hardworking individuals here will never get their money back.